Niagara Gazette — Former Niagara University basketball coach Jack Armstrong is saddened by the chain of events that led to the downfall of Rutgers coach Mike Rice, fired for physically and mentally abusing his players. Rice's shocking out-of-control behavior was captured on a video taken last November during the team's practice on the New Brunswick, N.J. campus.
"I'm obviously deeply disturbed and disappointed after seeing that video," Armstrong said, noting that he had coached Rice during his freshman year at Fordham University in New York City and later hired him as an assistant basketball coach at NU for the 1997-98 season.
Armstrong, now a TV analyst for the Toronto Raptors of the NBA-Canada, vented his feelings in a late-night interview on FAN Radio (590) in Toronto.
"To see that behavior absolutely blew me away," Armstrong said, alluding to Rice's habit of kicking his players, flinging basketballs at them and continually taunting them with vulgar language as they practiced. "I love him to death but the minute that I saw that video, I would have fired him immediately.”
Armstrong's reaction was in sharp contrast to Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti's decision to suspend Rice for only three games and slap him with a $50,000 fine. After the tumult and outcry over the video — it was first seen by officials some five months ago —that turned up recently on TV networks, Pernetti resigned, claiming he was made a scapegoat over the scandal.
In earlier days on Monteagle Ridge, Armstrong described Rice as a person who did a great job, performing his role with energy and enthusiasm. In today's NCAA highly competitive atmosphere, Armstrong said there's always intense pressure to win but "coaches are handsomely compensated" for handling that. He estimated that Rice had been making upwards of $750,000 per year.