Trio of coaches criticize Rice's practice tactics
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings says he has an effective way to get his players' attention when he's frustrated without doing something stupid, like putting his hands on them.
He kicks a basketball as hard and high as he can inside Memorial Gym to make his point - without touching anyone.
''It's so wrong to ever put your hands near a player to me ever,'' Stallings said Wednesday. ''I don't even put my hands on a guy to move him from one spot to the next. It's a bad practice because who knows when they've just done something that flips my switch in practice and I do something stupid, which I'm not inclined to because I'm never going to put my hands on him.''
Stallings, Butler's Brad Stevens and Belmont coach Rick Byrd took part in a panel discussion on Integrity in Sports at Belmont University. Mike Rice and Rutgers were a hot topic, along with the pressure to win in this era of multi-million dollar paydays, schools switching conferences and the need to fill arenas.
Seeing only snippets of the video showing Rice shoving players and throwing basketballs at them left Stallings embarrassed for the coaching profession. Stallings said there's no place for such behavior in college athletics.
''I hope that it wakes the administrators up all across the country that that kind of behavior can get put to rest,'' Stallings said.
Coaches that Stevens talked with during the Final Four in Atlanta all were disappointed in Rice's behavior, and Stevens said he'd never seen a practice like what he saw in the video. Byrd, one of 11 active coaches with more than 600 wins, said he has apologized to players for getting mad in the past with his frustration stemming from feeling his players made him look bad as a coach.
Byrd said he would never use Rice's approach.
''He had on different shirts and shorts, so it wasn't just one day,'' Byrd said of Rice in the video. ''That's as bad as it gets. ... Personal attacks are just not necessary at all.''
The coaches also discussed how Tubby Smith was fired from Minnesota and Ben Howland at UCLA despite reaching the NCAA tournament. Stallings said the pressure to win is a very real part of the job and Butler playing for two national titles in 2010 and 2011 with Stevens and VCU reaching the Final Four has ratcheted up expectations across the board.
''At a lot of places, it's just about winning, and you're going to see that happen in the Missouri Valley Conference, you're going to see it happen in the Ohio Valley and the Atlantic Sun. It already happens in the Big East where they're headed,'' Stallings said of Butler. ''It's a fact of life, and you know it when you take the job.''
Stevens joked that he forgot what conference Butler was in and that he didn't have to worry about missing coaches' meetings in the Horizon League. Butler will be playing in its third conference in three years this fall in the new Big East. Miss a coaches' meeting in the Southeastern Conference? Stallings said that costs a pricey $10,000.
The challenges of recruiting also came up.
Byrd has overseen Belmont's transition from NAIA into the Atlantic Sun and then the OVC this season where the Bruins won both the regular season and tournament title to reach the NCAA tournament. He sees the key being presidents and athletic directors demanding integrity and hiring honest people, not bringing in someone they hope has turned his life around.
''I know that's easy for me to say because I'm not the athletic director at Ohio State trying to fill a football stadium and a big arena and bring the money in that those presidents are charged to bring in,'' Byrd said. ''It's so much easier for me to get on a soap box and say that.''
Stevens said he made sure to fill his staff at Butler with people he trusted to follow the rules. Stallings, at Vanderbilt 14 seasons, said he knows he'll be fired if he cheats. With the NCAA understaffed with investigators, Stallings said significant rules violations should be handled first on campus with the NCAA handing down ''extraordinarily stiff penalties'' to cut down wrongdoing.
The ''one-and-done'' player has never been an issue for Byrd. Stallings said he prefers college baseball's rule requiring a player at a four-year school to stick around three years before being eligible for the draft again but isn't against the one-and-done concept that Kentucky has kind of built its program around with coach John Calipari.
''If I can get a one-and-done guy this afternoon when I start making recruiting calls, I'm going to take him,'' Stallings said.
Stevens said they ran the numbers comparing a player who comes after his sophomore year who could be picked in the Top 10 to someone who falls to 18th after sticking around for a junior season with his game picked apart. He said they found that player could lose $20 million in earnings by the time of retirement.
''There is something to be said about the financial aspect of those guys being able to go,'' Stevens said.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker