Here’s the transcript of today’s presser introducing Mike Rice as the new Rutgers men’s basketball coach.
Tim Pernetti, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
President McCormick and I worked very, very hard and quickly on this search. And as we got towards what we got to what we wanted to do, it was clear what we needed to do. We needed to find a head coach with the skills, with the relationships, with the passion, with the excitement about what we have here at Rutgers. And quite frankly, with energy that didn’t have a gauge that read empty. There is a lot of things we need to do and it will be a build in a lot of ways and today I am really pleased that I can introduce a guy that quite frankly, wasn’t looking for a job – he was looking for this job. So sitting next to me is our new head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice.
Mike stood out in every possible way and the process was challenging and I dug in pretty hard on a lot of questions on a lot of things that Mike will probably tell you. I really felt very strongly that not only does he have skills, have the relationships; he has the right attitude. His attitude is synonymous with the way we want to play basketball at New Jersey at Rutgers. His passion and energy blew me away. The work ethic that he has would fall into that same category. He is not only a basketball coach, I think he is a life coach as what he has done to develop his players at Robert Morris and the other places he has worked – to develop them also as people. I think he will sell the program every single day and try to improve the program every single day. This is a great fit at the right time for Rutgers basketball and it’s a great day. I couldn’t be happier to introduce Mike Rice as our head men’s basketball coach”
Mike Rice, Rutgers Men’s Basketball Head Coach
“First, I would like to thank everyone for coming. Talk about energy and it has taken completely what Rutgers University means and that they have the confidence in hiring me. I want to thank Tim Pernetti. I would like to thank the members of the hiring staff and committee; that would be Tim Pernetti (laughter). It was a unique situation when I did fly back to Pittsburgh my wife did ask me what was Tim Pernetti like, I said we spent five hours in a room together. She said was that exhausting, I said no, oddly enough I felt like tackling someone after it. It was a unique motivation and inspired and excited me more about what direction this program will take.
I am very excited to be here and start this amazing journey as the head men’s basketball coach at Rutgers. I believe Rutgers University has everything a program needs to be successful: strong academic reputation, location with so many elite basketball players in a short drive, tradition and an amazing fan base. There is an incredible passion for basketball in this state and in the metropolitan area. Through passion, intensity and hard work, I know we can build a successful program and create a winning culture one that will make the Rutgers community proud. I heard someone wrote the other day that it’s good for Rutgers to get a guy like Rice. You want a guy that would walk the New Jersey turnpike and take on a job. I didn’t walk here, but I almost had to by the way my wife packed the car up last night. I wasn’t sure whether it was me or the dog in the front seat. Athletics has an important place at this University. I want to build upon that tradition – goes back to guys like Jim Valvano, Eddie Jordan, players like Mike Dabney and Phil Sellers, James Bailey, the entire 1976 Final Four team. There is something special here, something special in this state. I am very pleased to be a part of it and be your head coach.
Now my formula for success and it’s a different one at times. When I met out student-athletes this morning and we had a great meeting, I told them what to expect. It will be a program focusing on playing with extreme consistent energy, old-school mentality – how can I help my teammate be successful and have a purpose for the game. I am big at hammering home, almost manipulating their thoughts, you can’t always control what happens but you can control 100 percent of the time how you respond. Making good decisions on and off the court will elevate this team and make it become successful. In practice, we will attack our weaknesses and build on our strengths. Our practices are known to be harder than games. When it comes to recruiting my focus will be getting the best players in the tri-state area. I have a long career of working this corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C. I have some great relationships with high school and AAU coaches. It’s a unique place to recruit to, I don’t think I would be sitting here if I hadn’t had the opportunity to work at a group like the Hoop Group, work at St. Joe’s and Pitt and work first-hand with these guys. They know me; they are used to me and will be seeing a lot more of me. I am both focused on completing my staff and in getting the right players in fill out the roster. We need the right student-athletes to fill out some obvious holes and I think we can do that. I have a busy next 100 days, whether its meeting a lot of you in this building at Rutgers University – faculty and staff. Getting out and making sure my relationships stay strong with these high school and AAU coaches and certainly, guiding and building this team and making winning and being successful an instinct. I look forward to all of that and making you proud of Rutgers University basketball. Every single day will be 100 percent and I will never stop.”
Q: How will you be different from other men’s basketball coaches at Rutgers?
“You are always going to look and see what happened in history, in the past. And maybe learn from some of those mistakes. What is going to be different is the same as every winning program has around the country, the fundamentals at the top. The level of demand is placed high. (Another high priority is) the recruiting of elite athletes and not just being involved in elite athletes, but signing them and finishing the deal. I think my experience, not just being a head coach but experience of being around winning programs. I just think that will make the difference. My eyes are wide open with the challenges I face and my team faces. Boy, I am excited about it and the experiences will set us apart.
Q: Scholarship players in the fall, what roster will you carry?
“There will be three to four visits in the next five to seven days. We have located and identified some holes. We have seven or eight scholarship players, certainly there will be holes to fill. We are going to get some quality players. I know it’s late. We are against some pretty good teams and programs, but I think we will win some battles down here at the end and probably sign three or four. We are looking to make an impact, especially on this tri-state area. We all know the talent level this area brings and Philadelphia, D.C. and Connecticut. I am excited about it. Again, when I tell a recruit that there is playing time available – there is no double-talk or double-meaning, there is playing time available. We are going to work on conditioning and making sure we are the best conditioned team in the BIG EAST.”
Q: What were first impressions having met with team this morning?
“My first impression is that these are the guys that want to be here. This is a team that is the ultimate underdog team, we’ve discussed this with our guys. I don’t know how many people even in this room will think automatically 2010-11 team and (word) success come to mind. I looked at our guys and said, if you will buy in and be able to meet the level of demand and be able to be pushed and coached, prodded, cheered and yelled (at) then we will be successful. I looked at these young men and I knew they wanted to be a part of turning Rutgers basketball around.”
Q: How excited are you that may be part of a renovation at the Louis Brown Athletic Center (RAC)?
“Again, that is what Tim had talked about. Not any specifics to be honest with you, but investing in men’s basketball. I know what will quicken the process is a winning basketball team and a team that fills the RAC and makes it the RAC of the old. I remember when I was here seven years ago and t hey had good teams, probably not NCAA cailibar teams, NIT winning teams and you couldn’t hear yourself think in the RAC. I would like to be a part of making the RAC, the RAC again.”
Q: What is the scale of the rebuilding job you will have to do, what are the first steps to take?
“I would think getting enough scholarship players to go five-on-five is my initial needs. One of those things, I have been recruiting and coaching all my life and this was what I was born to do. We will go out and get some talented players, they may not be the most notable players in the country right now – but they will have the qualities that I want. They will have a toughness about them, a chip on their shoulder. There will be guys that will be able to help our team next year. It is the most fun team to coach, that underdog. It’s going to be a long season (they say). No, I can’t wait to get at it because it’s an underdog season and that’s where I was when I was at Robert Morris, playing that underdog role a lot of the times away from our conference. To tell you the truth I thrive on that.”
Is it safe to say your dad was your biggest role model as a coach?
“No question. Instead of him telling me to go upstairs and do my math homework, he would say ‘Mike we are going to watch film.’ It’s just something that I was raised (to do). I’ve talked to my players about living your dreams. I never had aspirations and never dunked a basketball. Although I was a Division I player, I never dreams about being a NBA player. It was always becoming a high-level basketball coach. I told them (the players) today this is incredible for me because this is certainly my dream. I am excited about doing it with this group and maybe adding a couple more pieces.”
Tim Pernetti said he wanted someone that didn’t just want a job – that wanted this job. What made you that guy?
“I think again, the relationships I have in this area. They are unique relationships where as a college coach you are always wanting something so a high school coaches and AAU coaches look at you different. I spent hours upon hours and days upon days with these guys on the other side with them, whether I was working a high school team out and their individual players, they got to know me different, there was a different trust. This was the state I did it in and these are the people that I built those bonding relations (with).
How do you change a culture of a program that hasn’t won in a long time?
“Just making sure guys buy in. Fundamentals don’t change. The level of demand doesn’t change and recruiting doesn’t change. You now have to go out and do those things. People that I have worked for whether it’s Phil (Martelli) or Jamie Dixon and even Rob Kennedy at the Hoopgroup – those guys are successful for a reason. Again, I will do it the way I know how and I am pretty confident we can change that culture and can chance the mindset of some of the alumni or even the press that it’s the same ole’ Rutgers, mediocrity and all that kind of stuff.”