New Coach Mike Rice Ready, but Must Wait

Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice has been on the job for a little more than a month, but he is yet to see his players practice in person because of NCAA rules. And, it will be three months before he can watch them. Rice recently spoke to ScarletReport.com about what he knows about his team.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Not only did the timing of Mike Rice's hire as men's basketball coach impact his ability to recruit much-needed players to suit up for Rutgers next season, it took away his chance to see the current players perform in person.

So, when Rice talks about changing guard Mike Coburn's shot, about making Jonathan Mitchell more of an inside-outside player, and getting Dane Miller to become a more consistent shooter, there is frustration because, well, talk is all he can do.

Rice was hired at the end of the spring semester, and NCAA rules prohibit coaches from watching their players practice during summer sessions. It means Rice will have to wait until September before he can get to know his team personnel on a more personal level.

"It's tremendously difficult because you want to go and attack weaknesses and help them immediately, and you can't,'' Rice said. "So, it's frustrating. We can have all the conversations in the world about …

"I've got pictures how I want to change Mike Coburn's shot, I want to make Jonathan Mitchell more versatile, I want to help Dane shoot the same shot every time, but you can't do those things because you have rules.''

Between recruiting, hiring a staff and moving his family from the Pittsburgh area, Rice watched a handful of game films from last season.

He sawan incredibly inconsistent team, but he quickly learned the players are ready to be coached.

"I think they've been incredible,'' Rice said. "Penetrate to pass will be a termed used around here that will be used a lot.''

NCAA rules also prohibit mandatory workouts during summer sessions, so Rice cannot make the Scarlet Knights lift weights – although many of them are working out hard – or play pickup basketball games.

What he can do, though, is motivate his players.

"Lately I've been giving them a quote every day of who thinks they stink,'' Rice said. "So, every day you come in, whether it's fellow Big East coaches, or the media, or somebody, there's a bunch of them that don't think much of you, or your program, and so we're going to take it personal.

"Not so much where you're caught up in all of that. But it motivates you. I know it does me because people think I stink because I'm the head coach at Rutgers University.''

Rutgers went 44-77 in four seasons under former coach Fred Hill, and Rice inherited a roster depleted not only in talent, but in personnel.

With only a handful of returning players on the roster, Rice added guards Mike Poole and Tyree Graham to a recruiting class that already included Gilvydas Biruta and Austin Carroll. Rice remains in search of a pair of big men to complete the roster.

Of course, Rice said he understands why folks believe the Scarlet Knights will struggle next season, but it is the approach and mindset he is trying to shape.

"That's the mentality I want to grow with, like getting scored upon, you have to take it personally,'' Rice said. "Losing a half, you have to take it personal. You have to start to create this mentality, this urgency, that I want to develop.''


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