FROM IRE TO FIRE(D): The video of Mike Rice's action during Rutgers basketball practices didn't just cross the line, it redefined what crossing the line means. Photo courtesy Nick Laham/Getty Images

FROM IRE TO FIRE(D): The video of Mike Rice’s action during Rutgers basketball practices didn’t just cross the line, it redefined what crossing the line means. Photo courtesy Nick Laham/Getty Images

You can lean to one side of an issue and still have a line you won’t cross.

Take coaching for example. A coach is a farmer, a facilitator. His job, aside from drawing up plays and managing a roster, is to find ways to squeeze every ounce of “play” out of his players.

Be it little league or the NBA, any coach will tell you no two players are the same. Some need to be coddled, gently nudged as a method of motivation, while others need an explosion, a kick in the pants, something that sets them off and gets their juices flowing.

Yes, it’s a coach’s job to know what tool is needed for each player. It’s also a coach’s job, however, to never step outside the bounds of professionalism.

In the video of a series of basketball practices at Rutgers University that Outside The Lines released yesterday, Mike Rice clearly crosses said bounds, but it’s his utter disregard for where the line is that is the most troubling.

Mike Rice wasn’t trying to walk a fine line and simply got carried away. No, he ran straight out of the realms of what is appropriate and never stopped to question where he was headed. His blatant disregard for the dignity of his players is so appalling, it’s indescribable. You literally have to see the footage for yourself.

There’s name-calling, SERIOUS name-calling. Not “cupcake” or “fatso”, but “fairy” and “f**got”. There’s shoving. Not the motivational kind, but the kind with anger in it usually reserved for the moments just before a full-on brawl. There’s even the throwing of basketballs. Not good, hard chest passes, but one-armed, rearing-back slings filled with maliciousness.

SEEING RED: Mike Rice has brought a whole new meaning to the name "Scarlet Knight". Photo courtesy Elsa/Getty Images

SEEING RED: Mike Rice has brought a whole new meaning to the name “Scarlet Knight”. Photo courtesy Elsa/Getty Images

If it had not been for the basketball court and athletic apparel, you might think it was a Russian labor camp rather than a basketball practice.

And you don’t get to that point by “crossing the line” by just a step or two.

The funny thing in all this is I’m usually one to side with coaches in these instances. I didn’t think Mike Montgomery deserved one ounce of disciplinary action let alone whatever undisclosed slap on the wrist the Pac-12 gave him. Coaches aren’t therapists, they aren’t there to pat you on the back all the time. And if you’re too thin-skinned for that, then you might not want to participate in team sports.

But to have thick enough skin for what Mike Rice has done to his team, you’d have to be covered in Kevlar. The onslaught of admonishment towards his players is enough to make marine corps. drill sergeants look like harmless cheerleaders, and their job description IS to break you emotionally.

As bad as all that is, though, the most damning piece of evidence came from the testimony of assistant coach Eric Murdock, a former NBA player. According to him, Mike Rice would cease his overzealous behavior whenever Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti was observing.

If it’s true, it’s the one outstanding reason, above anything else, as to why Mike Rice should never coach a day in his life again. Why? Because it shows that he knew (and still does know) what he was doing was wrong, that he was going too far. This is not a Bobby Knight case where a hothead will be a hothead and it’s up to his superiors as to whether or not his actions will be tolerated. Mike Rice was aware of his abuse of power and was actively working to conceal it.

It’s actually not very complicated at all. People don’t try to cover up good things. No one pays hush money to someone that witnessed them feeding the homeless. No one tries to avoid the police when they’ve donated to charity. So why was Mike Rice concealing his behavior when outsiders were around?

I’ve taken grief from people for backing “mean” coaches before. Because, hey, I actually get it. When I was younger and I had coaches, yeah, I didn’t like it. But once you get older and see the big picture, you see what these mentors are trying to accomplish.

For Mike Rice, there was no method to his madness. There was just madness. An angry, 44-year old man that beat his players that were half his age both physically and emotionally. Even for a guy that believes, like the father figures they are, there are appropriate times for coaches to lay hands on their players, it’s plain to see that Mike Rice’s actions repeatedly ventured into the “fireable offense” zone.

Now it’s up to the university to decide what precedent they want to set.

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NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NCAA Basketball updates and other shenanigans!