LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) – Rutgers firing head basketball coach Mike Rice over a video showing him verbally and physically abusing his players calls for a definitive line to be drawn between coaching and abuse.
This firing was justified, coming after footage aired on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” showing Rice shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players, on top of yelling gay slurs at them during practice. But where is the line drawn between aggressive coaching and excessive coaching?
“You can get in a kid’s face. Sometimes you need to be yelled at. Sometimes a college basketball player needs a good kick in the butt. You need that stuff, and it’s okay to be physical with them and say ‘hey, this is how I want you to be. Get down, get in it,’” Danny Rouhier said on 106.7 The Fan. “When it turns to purposeless abuse to make yourself feel big and tough, that’s when it crosses the line.”
“I’ll go as far as to say, if you’re whipping basketballs at a guy’s legs, you throw a ball at a guy’s foot once in a while, that’s fine,” Holden Kushner responded. “You go for the head, you got major issues.”
Some coaches’ borderline violent tactics have served to reinforce their likeable legacies, such as Bobby Knight, known for throwing chairs, kicking basketballs and getting in players’ faces.
But it seems the old-school militaristic approach to coaching is being rebuked by society more and more, at least from the college level down.
In 2009, Mike Leach was released from his coaching duties of the Texas Tech football team. He was officially fired for insubordination after refusing to apologize to a player for allegedly forcing him to spend practice in a dark equipment room after the player sustained a concussion.
The once-immortalized Bear Bryant school of cruel and unusual treatment of players to get them ready for battle finally seems to be yielding to the ‘sneak an iPhone video of coach’ vision of the future.
That’s not to say coaches should walk on eggshells to maximize their players’ potential, but rather, the days of unchecked authority have come to an end. Coaches must now allow reason and common sense to underline each of their decisions.
“What Mike Rice is doing is bullying,” Danny said. “And I think it’s difficult because that line is grayed, it’s blurred, it’s maybe even a wave at points.”
He believes a coach should know when he’s crossed the threshold from coaching into madness “when you can figure out there’s no coaching purpose behind this anymore, this is just you being a dick.”
The unfortunate truth is that firm lines can only be drawn with future dismissals. Tomorrow’s precedent will establish when a coach has gone too far by society’s standards.
“Are you allowed to drop an F-bomb or two on a player?” Holden posited. “I think you are. But I also think we’re moving in the direction where, if all these practices are filmed, you’re not going to be able to do that anymore.”
The future could hold even further coaching restrictions, but until then, if coaches find themselves exhibiting Rice-type behavior, they know they’ve gone too far.
Listen to the full conversation below…