Sports usually finds a way to give people second chances. After 2013 video showed infamous former-Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball coach Mike Rice verbally and physically abusing his players at practice, the 46 year-old has been hired officially as the interim coach of The Patrick School, an Elizabeth, NJ high school.
Rice will be taking over for Chris Chavannes, who, as the school principal, feels he needs to dedicate more time to his other work at the basketball powerhouse of a school. It will be the first time Rice coaches since Rutgers dismissed him after the 2013 incident.
"I'm excited and thankful for the opportunity," Rice told NJ.com over text Sunday afternoon. "Whatever I can do to help the Patrick School student-athletes and Chris, I will."
As an NCAA coach at Robert Morris and Rutgers for six years, Rice compiled a record of 117-82. He was considered a top young coach after bringing Robert Morris to two NCAA tournament berths but failed to break the .500 mark with the Scarlet Knights.
"He without question has a desire to get back to the collegiate level," said Chavannes. "I think Mike could use a program such as one with our profile level to help get himself back out there."
Chavannes was also confident the move would be beneficial to the school. "For the program, it’s a good situation for me to take some time off and the players maintain that certain level that they’ve had. It’s just a nice transition," he said. "He's very energetic, very enthusiastic, very passionate and he has a ton of knowledge of the game."
Rice will remain a special assistant after Chavannes returns to head coaching duties after one month, when the principal returns to the sideline himself.
The 2013 footage showed the coach using gay slurs and throwing balls at players, as well as grabbing them by the scruff of their jerseys. He was suspended three games and fined $50,000, and the next day he and athletic director Tim Pirnetti were forced out.
According to a press release by The Patrick School, the still-young coach "has attended an extensive anger management program as well as a GLSEN workshop in Chicago focusing on LGBT issues that high school students face."
Working with John Lucas Enterprises, "Mike has worked with over one thousand student athletes in the last two years as he evaluated and developed their life and basketball skill levels."