Rutgers University took its first step forward on Monday when it chose former dean Carl Kirschner to take over as temporary athletic director following the resignation of Tim Pernetti. Kirschner will have to find a full-time AD, who will then have to find a men’s basketball coach to replace the disgraced Mike Rice.
Even more than the damage he did to his own players, Rice deserved to be fired because of the threat he posed to opposing players. Though hurling a basketball at someone’s head from point-blank range doesn’t seem all that safe, those players who had to take the court against Rice’s Scarlet Knights were even more at risk than those wearing the scarlet jerseys.
If a player threw a ball at, shoved or taunted — because what is using homophobic language if not taunting — another player during a game, that player would likely receive a technical, get ejected or possibly even suspended. Well, who do you think is more likely to act that way: a player whose coach does the same thing, or a coach who maintains some measure of self-restraint?
Even at the college level, athletes are still developing both physically and mentally. They model their behavior on their coaches’ behaviors, and that made what Rice did all the more dangerous.
Using a homophobic slur isn’t the same as criticizing bad play. Shoving or kicking a player isn’t the same as guiding him to where he needs to be.
Throwing a ball at a player’s head accomplishes nothing productive. Instead it produces a culture of fear in which players are afraid to try because to do something wrong might mean physical pain.