ATLANTA — Mike Rice’s behavior put all coaches on alert this week, forcing them to defend their profession and reassure fans they don’t all act like bullies in practice.
“It was a very serious isolated incident,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “Those things do not happen. As a pro coach, I would go to every city and go see a college practice. I’ve seen some coaches that may use rough language. But that just doesn’t go on.”
Rutgers fired Rice on Wednesday after ESPN broadcast video of him pushing, grabbing and throwing balls at players. He also directed homosexual slurs at players during practice. Rutgers suspended Rice for three games and fined him $50,000 after the allegations first surfaced in June. After ESPN showed the video Tuesday, Rutgers fired him.
“There’s obviously a line that was crossed,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “I feel really bad for those young men. I feel bad for Mike. I hope that he can get straight and figure out what he needs to do going forward, and gets another opportunity.”
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim coached against Rice in the Big East.
“I think he’s a very good basketball coach,” he said. “The tragedy is his team would have played exactly the same or better if he hadn’t done any of that. If he never touched anybody, his team would have played, I think, better.”
Most coaches admit to using harsh language. Throwing basketballs off players’ heads or shoving them is out of bounds.
“You get out of control,” Boeheim said. “I get verbal. I’m on players. But you can’t touch a player, other than just on the shoulder or something. You certainly can’t push them and grab them and throw something at them. I have thrown a ball, and it’s usually up in the stands. Last time, I hurt my arm, so I don’t throw them any more.”
The National Association of Basketball Coaches released a statement on Thursday reading, in part, “There should be no doubt – physical, verbal and/or emotional abuse by a coach is unacceptable regardless of circumstance and those responsible should be held accountable. In no uncertain terms, the first obligation of any coach is the personal safety and well-being of his/her athletes.”
Headliner — Kansas City’s CBE Classic is thrilled with Wichita State’s Final Four appearance.
The tournament officially announced its field on Thursday. Texas, DePaul and BYU will join WSU in Sprint Center on Nov. 25-26. Matchups and times will be announced later. One of the ESPN networks will televise the semifinals and finals.
Without WSU, the field lacks charisma. Texas and DePaul had losing seasons. Iowa lost in the semifinals of the NIT.
Those four teams will also play two home games in early November.
WSU played in the CBE Classic in 2009, losing to Pittsburgh and defeating Iowa.
Southern man — Marshall is within about a four-hour drive from formative coaching stops at Winthrop and the College of Charleston, both in South Carolina.
He put coaching mentor John Kresse, who hired him as an assistant at the College of Charleston, to work.
“I’ve got him looking at a little Louisville tape right now to give me a few pointers,” Marshall said.
Marshall worked for Kresse for eight seasons, helping that program move from the NAIA to NCAA Division I. The Cougars made four NCAA Tournaments under Kresse, who coached there for 23 seasons.
“He remains my Coach K,” Marshall said. “We run a very similar style to the one I learned from him.”
Kresse encouraged Marshall to chase the Winthrop job when it opened in 1998. At that time, Marshall was an assistant at Marshall University.
“His words were, ‘Gregg, I would walk to Rock Hill (S.C.) right now to help you get that job,’” Marshall said. “I had his blessing. I remember telling them that my College of Charleston experience — I was not the architect, but I was the foreman — and I carried some bricks and I slung some mortar and could steal the blueprint. They fell for it.”
Marshall coached nine seasons at Winthrop and went to seven NCAA Tournaments.
Pricey rooms – With the Final Four in town, hotel prices have increased 200 percent or more, according to AtlantaHotels.org.
Most rooms start at $300 per night. You have to go outside the I-285 perimeter – the loop around the city – to find a room for under $100.
Thieves – While Wichita State’s defense has grabbed Louisville’s attention, the Cardinals have done pretty well themselves in that area.
Louisville set a school record this season with 413 steals – 60 more than the mark set last season. The Cardinals also broke a 16-year-old record by forcing 707 turnovers this year.
Their 10.9 steals rank second in the nation.
Syracuse connection – Pitino worked as an assistant at Syracuse for Jim Boeheim from 1976-78. Officially, it was his second coaching job after spending time at Hawaii.
“I set (Boeheim) up with his wife,” Pitino said, “and that was the greatest accomplishment I’ve ever done.”
Burke on demand — Trey Burke won the first of what could be several National Player of the Year awards, taking the honor from the Associated Press on Thursday.
Burke, the Big Ten Player of the Year and a consensus All-American, averaged 18.8 points and 6.8 assists. He’s the first Michigan player to win the AP award since Cazzie Russell in 1966.
Also Thursday, the 6-foot-1 sophomore won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard. He’s a favorite for the three other player of the year honors — the Wooden Award, Naismith Award and the Oscar Robertson Award — that will be announced during the Final Four.
Burke scored 23 points and had 10 assists in No. 4-seed Michigan’s upset over top-seeded Kansas in a South Regional semifinal last weekend, making several important shots at the end of regulation and in overtime to complete a double-digit second-half comeback.
"The whole year he has been just as calm and cool as if he was a fifth-year redshirt senior guard," Michigan coach John Beilein said Thursday.