PISCATAWAY, N.J. — It’s hard to imagine Bob Knight looking tamer than anyone when it comes to basketball coaches.
But right about now, Knight’s now-legendary chair-toss across the floor and infamous choking of Neil Reed may seem somewhat mild compared to Mice Rice’s antics in the above video clips from his ongoing Rutgers tenure.
As it turns out, Knight was interested in the Rutgers job in 2010, around the time that former coach Fred Hill was fired for his own bizarre outburst at a Rutgers baseball game.
“He said he would talk to them,” legendary Five Star Basketball figure Howard Garfinkel recently told SNY.tv of Knight’s interest in Rutgers. “If they called him, he would talk to them.”
Asked what kind of coach Knight, who won 902 career games at Army, Indiana and Texas Tech before retiring in 2008, would have been at Rutgers, Garfinkel said: “What he always was, he was a superstar. Superstars never die. They don’t even fade away. They stay forever. Superstars stay forever.”
Pat Knight told me in 2010 –when Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John’s all hired new coaches — that Rutgers should call his father.
“If I’m St. John’s or Rutgers, to me, you gotta be an idiot … if you’re an AD or president, it doesn’t hurt to call,” Pat Knight said then.
“All he can do is tell you no. He brings an instant recognition to you. You know you’re going to win. I mean, the guy’s better than anyone out there.”
Nobody stays forever in college coaching — except for maybe Coach K — and it certainly looks as though Rice’s time at Rutgers will soon come to an end, despite Rutgers’ AD Tim Pernetti’s staunch backing of him.
Rice is shown firing balls at players’ heads, chest and legs; pushing, shoving and kicking them; and repeatedly using profane and abusive language toward them.
Yet the most damning part of the video is when Rice used a gay slur on a player, shouting:
“Shut the f–k up. You’re a f–king f-g.”
“Certain words, they’re unacceptable,” Pernetti told a small group of reporters in a conference room at the Rutgers Athletic Center after showing the video here Monday afternoon just shortly before ESPN ran it on “Outside the Lines.” “When you use them once, it’s once too many.”
Still, Pernetti added that there are “certain words that I had not heard until I saw this tape.”
After fining Rice $50,000 and suspending him three games earlier this year, Pernetti said he and Rutgers President President Robert L. Barchi stood by the coach and initially said Tuesday he wouldn’t be fired.
Yet he seemed to be weighing his options during a radio interview.
“I think now that [the videotape] is out there — we knew it was going to get out there,” Pernetti said during a radio interview with WFAN in New York. “The reaction — we knew what it was going to be. I need to sit here and think about what gives us the ability to be effective going forward in men’s basketball, and more importantly, what protects the university.
“There’s a lot of things on my mind right now that I’m thinking through and trying to make sure that whatever decisions I make on a going-forward basis, that we try to make the right one.”
It may be that Rutgers is waiting to fire Rice until after the Murdock wrongful termination suit is settled. If they fire him now, it could be construed as an admission of liability, a legal source told SNY.tv.
“Rutgers has to be very careful because to the extent it can be demonstrated they were on notice of what he was doing, that’s going to come back against the university,” the source said.
Pernetti may well be putting his own career on the line by backing Rice, but he told reporters here that when it came time to replace Hill in 2010, “We were definitely looking to hire somebody with an edge.”
Bob Knight had an edge, to be sure.
Sources close to Pernetti said he never spoke directly with Knight, even if Knight may have reached out through backchannels.
“Well, obviously he wasn’t [interested],” Garfinkel said of Pernetti. “He never called [Knight].”
Should he have considered Knight at the time?
“Of course,” Garfinkel said, “who wouldn’t be interested in Knight?”
Some three years after the Hill firing and the Rice hiring, it’s hard to imagine anyone being considered tamer than Bob Knight.
And whether he might have imploded, exploded or succeeded at Rutgers, we’ll never know.