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Former Rutgers Basketball Coach Rice: 'I Never Abused Anybody'

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The New York Post
November 7, 2013 Thursday
Late City Final; Pg. 54
549 words
Picking up the pieces Ex-RU coach Rice: I never abused anyone
Zach Braziller

Mike Rice says he's a changed man. The former Rutgers coach claims he has been rehabilitated, having attended the John Lucas Wellness and Aftercare Program in Houston to deal with his anger issues, and has learned over the last seven months through "embarrassment" and losing his "dream job" he needed to coach and act differently.

Rice shared those lessons with New York Times Magazine on Wednesday and he will tell the world Friday night in a televised interview with Robin Roberts for ABC's "20/20."

Rice, who has taken an instructor's job with the New Jersey-based grass-roots basketball academy The Hoop Group - the first step in what he hopes will one day lead to a return to the coaching ranks - shared his regrets about the controversy for the first time since he was fired in April. He expressed how deeply he feels for his former players, the shame he felt when the video of his over-the-top practice methods was shown by ESPN, clips that displayed him throwing basketballs at players, shoving players and yelling homophobic slurs, including "f-ing f-t" and "fairy."

Rice also told the magazine: "I was an idiot, but I never abused anybody," a sentence that seems to conflict with his actions that were caught on video and his "I've changed" mantra.

"Mentally, he abused a lot of guys, made guys not so happy about coming to the gym," said former player Mike Poole, who transferred to Iona amid the controversy.

Rutgers forward Wally Judge said "it's like a fly that won't go away," to have to rehash the ugly fiasco two days before the Scarlet Knights' season-opener Friday against Florida A&M.

"I won't be tuning in," he added, referring to the ABC show.

One parent of a former player under Rice, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his apology is "disingenuous," that the coach hasn't spoken directly to several players.

"When I read about the rehabilitation and when I read about John Lucas and when I read about '20/20,' what bothers me is that I don't think rehabilitation starts until you apologize to the people you affected," the parent said. "Text message, email and those types of forms of communication are not satisfying for this type of behavior/incident."

Bob Hurley Sr., the legendary St. Anthony of Jersey City coach who sent two of his players - Myles Mack and Eli Carter - to play for Rice, said he noticed a change in Rice after the initial suspension, and even more so while working with him over the summer at clinics.

"The counseling and time spent removed from what he loves seemed to have a really good effect on him," Hurley said. As far as Rice's comments that he didn't abuse his players, Hurley said: "What's the expression? A picture is worth 1,000 words. I think he's learned, but it's hard to explain those things."

One local college athletic director, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Rice is rushing the process by going on television, whether he has indeed changed or not. The AD suggested Rice basically "go away" for a year, keep a low profile, attend high school and college practices and prove he has changed - not tell the world about it.

"This shows Mike Rice doesn't get it," the athletic director said. "He's not giving himself or the people around him time to heal."

zbraziller@nypost.com

November 7, 2013

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