Local coaches react to Rice firing

McDonald boys basketball coach Jeff Rasile was stunned to see the video of former Rutgers University coach Mike Rice, Jr., grabbing players, hurling basketballs at the Scarlet Knight players and verbally berating those student-athletes during practice.

Rice, who is a Boardman High School graduate, was fired Wednesday for his actions.

Rice, 44, is the son of Mike Rice, Sr., who coached at Youngstown State University from 1982-87. The elder Rice is a broadcaster for the Portland Trail Blazers and once got ejected from a 1994 game by NBA referee Steve Javie.

Rasile, who has a flair for the dramatic, is known for his fiery style, stomping and being very vocal during games.

That said, the McDonald coach said keeping a balance between mentoring players and letting your emotions run wild is critical – especially during practices.

“It’s difficult, obviously,” Rasile said. “We’ve invested a lot into winning and losing and the time we put in. At the end of the day, the kids have to feel you care about them and you’ll sacrifice for time – in other areas, not just in basketball. From the video I saw, it seemed like it was pretty demeaning to the kids, to say the least.

“Clearly we’re not throwing basketballs or anything of that nature. That wouldn’t last too long at McDonald or any other local school. I’m certain of that.”

Seeing Rice putting his hands on players was something Warren G. Harding football coach Steve Arnold, who spent nine seasons as the Raiders basketball mentor, was appalled at Rice manhandling his players.

“We can get emotional as coaches, but you just can’t put your hands on kids in that manner and do some things he’s done,” Arnold said. “I know Mike, he’s been in our gym, recruiting some of our kids in the past. He’s just a fiery coach. You just have to monitor what you do.”

Arnold said there’s a different way to approach practice.

“We mature as coaches,” he said. “You learn from your experiences and other people’s experiences. Obviously coaches are wired a different way. We all have our various ways we try to motivate and get kids to play hard and pay attention to detail. There’s times you get in a kid’s face. There’s a time you put your arm around them and tell them you got to get this done.”

And Rice’s language wasn’t something Rasile tolerates.

“The first reaction was him putting his hands on the kids – the language he was using around the kids,” he said. “We don’t name call at all with the kids, or anything like that. That’s just over the top.”

Arnold said motivating his players comes from other factors than physical violence and trashy language.

“Ultimately, the thing we hold over a kid’s playing time,” Arnold said. “That’s what I’ve always tried to convey to our players. Either you’re going to compete and play hard and know what we’re doing, or you won’t play. It’s that simple.

“If you can’t compete and play hard all the time and know what we’re doing from a schematic point of view what your job is then you won’t play. Kids want to put the time in and, ultimately, they want to get out there on game day.”

As for Rice’s actions, some people have compared it to Bobby Knight’s antics at Indiana.

“We all grew up with Bobby Knight a little bit, but it wasn’t like that,” Rasile said. “Bobby Knight was an intense figure.

“That (Rice) was way over the top.”