Former Rutgers men’s basketball head coach Mike Rice sat down with Good Morning America in his first interview since the scandal that caused him to lose his job six months ago. Rice claims he has learned from his mistakes and is a changed man.
“I won’t be perfect moving forward, but I’ve changed,” Rice told “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts in an interview for ABC’s “20/20.” “Having that taken away, your dream job…and having it done in such a visible way…and hurting the people closest to me…it changes a person.”
Rice was fired from Rutgers on April 3 when footage of him being physically and verbally abusive to his players was aired on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”.
“My first reaction, when I saw the tape was one of embarrassment, of shock, of sadness,” Rice said.
The footage was shocking as Rice was seen yanking his players by the jersey, pushing them in the chest and even hurling basketballs at their heads. Rice could also be heard screaming obscenities at his players and using anti-gay slurs like “f***ing f****t” and “fairy”.
Gay tolerance has been a very sensitive subject for Rutgers since 2010 when freshman Tyler Clementi, took his own life after discovering his roommate secretly recorded him having an intimate encounter with another man in their dorm room. Rice called his homophobic language “idiotic” and said,
“I wasn’t thinking that I was shouting at Tyler Clementi, or anybody else, who was a gay or a lesbian.”
Rice says the pressure to win and change the basketball program at Rutgers caused him to behave the way he did and he admits that he was not ready for the job.
“The media were calling us the leftovers,” Rice said. “It was the leftovers and the inexperienced coach from a small school in western Pennsylvania, so I had a chip on my shoulders.”
The former head coach says he has apologized to all of his players and he feels responsible for the negative perception of the Rutgers basketball program.
“You know, whether it was texting, whether it was calling, whether it was, handwritten letters, whether it’s email, they don’t deserve this and especially the first year’s team,” he said. “Even though we were out-manned every single night, they really, really fought hard for me…and they’re almost embarrassed about that fact now. They’re embarrassed about being a Rutgers basketball player.”
He continued, “It’s an incredible place…and it hurts, again, for me to be the reason why it’s not looked upon as well as it should.”
In an attempt to wrong his rights and repair his reputation, Rice reached out to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Rice also spent five weeks in therapy with former NBA player John Lucas who runs a treatment and recovery center for athletes.
“You’re not going to completely change the perception…because that’s going to be who Mike Rice is, a small percentage of it,” Rice said.
“And again, it’s not about making excuses. It’s about learning from them. It’s about sharing those mistakes with other coaches, and hopefully one day, if I do want to coach again, having an opportunity…That’s what it’s about.”