Former PF Johnson Voices Support for Rice

Former Rutgers forward Austin Johnson spent his final three years of college basketball under Mike Rice and spoke out tonight in support of his former head coach. Johnson spoke with Tuesday night and discussed his perspective on Rice's behavior as a head coach.

There were times where Austin Johnson felt Mike Rice took things too far but it never got to the point where he felt malice from his head coach during the final three years at Rutgers.

Johnson was one of a small group to stick with the program after Rice took over three years ago and spoke out in support of him tonight after the practice videos entered the public domain.

"It's tough to watch what's going on with social media and with the reports where anybody can say whatever they like," Johnson said. "People don't know the whole story and they just go off what they see and what was on that highlight reel. It's unfortunate but people are obviously entitled to their opinions. I've been through it and I just want to offer my support."

Johnson has been vocal in his support and respect for Rice since the suspension in December. As one of only two players on the roster to spend all three seasons with Rice, he continues to hold his coach in high regard after playing his final game at the Big East tournament.

"It was emotional rollercoaster at times and [Rice] was tough on everybody," Johnson said. "I understood why he did what he did. He was trying to change the culture and was so adamant and passionate about that. He expressed his will to win, sometimes in the wrong manner. He wanted to win and may have occasionally went about it the wrong way, but I still 100 percent appreciate his will to win and his passion for Rutgers basketball."

Johnson said the majority of former assistant Eric Murdock's video came from Rice's first year and that there were significant improvements from his inappropriate behavior early in his tenure.

During three years under Rice, Johnson developed from a non-impact player to the best post presence Rutgers had as a senior. In his final game, Johnson posted a career-high 18 points at Madison Square Garden.

"From when I first met him to the last game I played under him, it was two completely different individuals," Johnson said. "He was a different person. You saw how he was suspended and it changed him. He was much more laid back in the way he conducted himself."

Like most in the Rutgers community, Johnson said that some actions in practice were not acceptable but that the video aired to the public was not a fair representation of Rice.

"A highlight reel of somebody is not a fair image," he said. "I feel like any time you have a highlight reel, you can make it look like anything, even if it's not like that all the time. I support him. That's my thought. He did a lot of good for me personally and a lot of good things for a lot of other people. It's unfortunate. I feel bad."

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