Three months after being suspended for “inappropriate behavior and language” ESPN’s Outside The Lines shared a video of Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice abusing his players with inappropriate names and slurs and physical contact and threats. Video from ESPN:
The video is shocking and irredeemable. Rice is shown grabbing, shoving and kicking players. He is shown throwing basketballs at them. He directs a multitude of vulgar variations of “you’re a sissy” at them.
That’s not coaching. That’s bullying.
As addressed in a previous piece about MLB pensions possibly being eliminated, one of the two pillars of Lean and the Toyota Production System is “respect for people.” This doesn’t necessarily mean always being nice and kind when dealing with others, but rather finding ways to challenge those around you to perform at their peak potential and identify ways to solve problems collectively. Part of respecting others means helping find the truth and the appropriate reconciliation of identified problems, which isn’t always easy to do or handle.
There are multiple ways to help others perform at their best, and while not all of those methods are nice and kind it’s generally expected that appropriate results will follow methods that seem angry and mean to outsiders. In addition, not every method to get through to colleagues, direct reports, or supervisors will work the same – everyone is different.
Unfortunately Mike Rice isn’t delivering those results. Not only does he have a poor coaching record at Rutgers (44-51) but he has also driven many program insiders away, including player transfers. From former Rutgers director of player development Eric Murdock:
Some players were deeply affected by Rice’s treatment of them, Murdock said, adding that he watched it undermine their desire to play. “There were some players who couldn’t sleep at night, who wasn’t eating, who didn’t want to come to the gym,” he said, adding that he told Pernetti about that, too, in December.
A simple similarity can be drawn between Mike Rice and Bob Knight. However, as Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports states, “At least that bully won.” Beyond that, many players return to Indiana as big Bob Knight supporters and there is ample evidence that Knight’s players took the “student” in “student-athlete” seriously.
This isn’t to say that winning is an excuse for verbal and physical battery of players. College basketball coaches with potty mouths and short fuses who deliver results on the court and in the classroom have others see their actions as “getting through to the kids” but the fact remains that the coach is providing what is making the kids excel.
This can’t be said of Mike Rice. Poor coaching record, getting torched in the media, and players not developing that necessary trust and mutual respect with their coach means that Mike Rice is doing something wrong as a head college basketball coach.