Rutgers' Rice Returns Home

Rutgers coach Mike Rice was born in Pittsburgh and spent the last four years of his career in the Steel City. He brings the Scarlet Knights there for the first time, but not to face the Panthers. Instead, Rutgers meets Auburn (12:30 p.m., ESPN2) in the SEC-Big East Invitational. Rice needed about 75 tickets, and he talked to after a recent practice about returning home.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Mike Rice isn't exactly the sentimental type, but he certainly is prideful.

And that is why Rutgers' first-year coach may have an extra hop in his step, and ferocity in his voice this afternoon when the Scarlet Knights face Auburn in the SEC-Big East Invitational at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

Rice not only spent the last four years of his career in the Pittsburgh area, one year as an assistant at Pitt and three years as Robert Morris' head coach, but he was born there.

"I'm excited to get back there. It's my home city," Rice told this week. "I'll have close to 75 people there with family and friends. I lived there the last four years, my wife and kids have family and friends coming, so it's important.

"I'm excited about it, but other than that, it really doesn't matter if we play on Mars. It's the same intensity and the same winning formula."

Rutgers senior guard Mike Coburn, whose game flourished in seven games under Rice, knows this game has special meaning.

"I know what kind of person he is," Coburn said. "He's going back home. He doesn't want to lose back there. He probably won't say it to us, but we know. He's going to give it a little extra something.

"We want to win for his sake, back from where he's from. If we do win, we'll let him know that was for him."

But Rice insisted there was no motivation to show the hometown folks how well his team is capable of playing.

"I reached my goal of coaching the highest level in college basketball," he said. "I want to win. That doesn't matter. I want to win as badly as I want to win any other game, but it's just nice to do it in front of family and friends."

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