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Rutgers' player, former student manager defend Mike Rice

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Earlier this month, Rutgers fired basketball coach Mike Rice after a video surfaced showing the coach physically and verbally abusing players.

Fans and nonfans alike were appalled and shocked. Rice fired, an assistant quit and Rutgers' athletic director was terminated.

Now, according to Big Lead Sports, a senior still on the Scarlet Knights roster and a former student manager have come to Rice's defense.

To 6-foot-8, 250 pound Austin Johnson, Rice was like any other coach trying to motivate his players to get the most out of them.

"At this level, some of that is to be expected," Johnson said. "When we did go through it, we understood it, and we analyzed it. That's part of being at this level."

Student manager Seth Mucha was with the team for the first two years of Rice's stay at Rutgers. He said the outbursts were rare "once every couple weeks or every month." He added, "[Rice's] intentions were to get the most out of his players. I was there for two years and I never thought he was trying to hurt anyone."

When Rice was suspended in December for abusive behavior both Johnson and Mucha said players were "a little bit shocked." Rice served his suspension and Johnson thought it was over.

But just weeks after the Scarlet Knights' season ended, the infamous video surfaced on ESPN on April 2. Within 24 hours, Rice was fired. That same day, Jimmy Martelli, an assistant resigned and then the next day, Tim Pernetti, the athletic director, was terminated.

"He was wrong for what he did and how he went about it," Johnson said. "But I know his intentions were to try to change the culture and turn Rutgers into a winning program."

Johnson and Mucha told the Big Lead that Rice's goal was to simulate game situations. They talked about Rice's drive to make the Scarlet Knights relevant again.

Johnson hopes that Rice will get another chance.

"I thought this country was built on second chances and forgiveness," Johnson said. "You can forgive the president and other coaches ... with time and space, people will forget and maybe he'll be able to coach again."
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