After video revealed Mike Rice's physical abuse and homophobic berating of his players -- but before Rutgers fired its men's basketball coach on Wednesday -- New Jersey's most prominent high school coach claimed the behavior wouldn't have prevented him from sending his student-athletes to play for the Scarlet Knights.
"I think it’s very bad, but old news," St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) High boys basketball coach Bob Hurley told The Star-Ledger. "The university did do something (in response). He did go through some counseling and I did watch the bench from that point when he came back the rest of the year. I thought I saw a guy who was really trying to be a different guy. So being in the coaching ranks, I would give him the benefit of the doubt.
"I’m not dismissing it. I just think it’s something that’s already been addressed."
Hurley, who has amassed more than 1,000 victories and 27 state championships in 40 seasons as head coach of the Friars, explained that he hadn't seen the video obtained by ESPN's "Outside the Lines" (embedded above). Even if he did see the footage, it wouldn't have kept him from sending his kids to play for Rice, Hurley told The Star-Ledger, in part because the university had already suspended its coach for three games in December.
Meanwhile, a pair of prominent Garden State prep basketball players also wouldn't have ruled out playing for Rice had he remained at Rutgers, their fathers told The Star-Ledger.
St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) Prep sophomore Isaiah Briscoe and Pope John XXIII (Sparta, N.J.) freshman Bryce Aiken -- both of whom already own offers from Rutgers -- reportedly would have still considered the Scarlet Knights regardless of Rice's future.
"I’ve known of the tape for a while and I’ve known of his actions," George Briscoe explained to the paper. "But I actually know Mike Rice as a man and as a father figure to his kids. I know him besides Rutgers basketball and it honestly does not change my perception of him. Everybody makes mistakes."
Mistakes? The video of Rice hurling basketballs at kids' heads and calling them a double-expletive made it seem more like the coach's standard operating procedure than mistakes. Regardless, considering Briscoe has received offers everywhere from Arizona to Duke, Rutgers was probably a long shot to land Rivals.com's No. 16 recruit in the Class of 2015.
At least St. Benedict’s boys basketball coach Mark Taylor was a voice of reason in the New Jersey high school basketball community, even if he too hadn't seen the tape.
"We’ve had seven guys in the last two years sign (elsewhere) so our guys seem to be attracted to a coach that they feel very comfortable with," Taylor told The Star-Ledger. "I think it’s important -- and Mike needs to understand that as well -- that players want to play for guys that they seem to be comfortable with and like. They don’t want to be abused. There’s always a fine line and you can’t cross that line."
Thankfully, as Yahoo!'s own Pat Forde urged on Tuesday, Rutgers drew that line.
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