Rutgers Turns To Mike Rice To Resurrect Men's Basketball

Jayson LoveCorrespondent IMay 3, 2010

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 18:  Coach Mike Rice of the Robert Morris Colonials reacts against the Villanova Wildcats during the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 18, 2010 in Providence, Rhode Island. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

With Fred Hill's firing about a month ago, Rutgers basketball was left in shambles. 

Since Hill's tenure started in 2006, Rutgers hasn't had a winning season.  Its 15-17 record in 2009-10 was actually the best season R.U. had under Fred Hill Jr.

When news came that Hill was to remain Rutgers' head coach, the fanbase was basically split.  The naysayers believed that the decision to keep Hill was purely economic, and even a positive fan would have to agree.

One profanity-laced tirade later, the naysayers got their wish: Fred Hill Jr. was done as head coach of Rutgers basketball.

As the school put the finishing touches on a buyout, the fallout ensued.  Transfers of Pat Jackson and star player Mike Rosario, and a de-commitment of Gil Biruta. 

But then, positive news came.  Athletic director Tim Pernetti sat down with Biruta, and convinced the kid to stay a Rutgers recruit.  Then, Pernetti turned his attention to a coaching search. 

So now, Rutgers turns to former Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice to lead its basketball program.  Pernetti is certainly putting himself out there with this hire.

Pernetti spurned established, albeit controversy-riddled coaches in Fran Fraschilla and Jim O'Brien.  He also said no to an established winner in Al Skinner formerly of Boston College.  

The athletic director decided that he wanted to catch the "wave up" in Mike Rice rather than hope that the "wave down" with Skinner, O'Brien, and Fraschilla would bring success to Rutgers.

With an apathetic and dwindling fanbase, the easy move is to hire the biggest name you can and hope to generate some enthusiasm.  Pernetti, however, is looking at the bigger picture.

While I admire the guts of Pernetti's vision, he is certainly out on a limb with Rice.  

The positives to this hire are that Rice is 41 years old, and certainly has the potential to "come of age" with Rutgers and be the next entrenched coach at a Big East school.  He can obviously coach as he guided the Robert Morris Colonials to NCAA tournament bids the past two seasons.  

However, the Big East is about so much more than coaching.  The biggest concern for Rutgers fans is, can this guy recruit?  Looking at Rice's resume, the answer seems to be affirmative.

Rice spent time as an assistant at Pittsburgh in the 2006-07 season and if there is one  thing R.U. supporters know about Pitt, it is that they get more than their fair share of New York and New Jersey recruits.  

It seems that Rice would have had to be involved in the recruitment of those players Pitt tabbed from the metropolitan area that season.  

So for Rutgers fans, it is once again time to hope.  Hope that Rice can tab some solid players from New York and New Jersey, coach them up, and most importantly, get them to stay loyal to the program.