Though I believed he deserved at least one more season, it came as no surprise that the Duquesne Dukes fired head men’s basketball coach Jim Ferry. The writing had been on the wall even before his team blew an 18 point second half lead in their Atlantic-10 opening round loss to St. Louis. Ferry’s team finished the season losing 16 of their last 18 games including their last three by three points or less.
Duquesne athletic director David Harper has pledged to conduct a national search to find their fourth head coach since 2001. There are a bunch of guys Harper should consider, from guys already leading smaller programs or current assistants at a big time program. But in my opinion, there is one man who should be at least given a chance to interview for the job: Mike Rice.
Yes, you remember Mike Rice who led RMU to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances including nearly upsetting #2 Villanova in 2010. Sadly, that’s not what Rice is remembered for. He was fired by Rutgers in 2013 after footage leaked of him repeatedly being abusive towards his players in practices. He had also been suspended earlier that same season and fined $50,000 for similar behavior directed at his players. Since being ousted from Rutgers, Rice has fallen out of the public eye while trying to rehab his image coaching AAU and at the Patrick School in New Jersey.
I understand bringing in someone as infamous as Rice could backfire with the current roster and future recruiting, but let’s be honest, you’re not going to get a household name or successful coach to take this job. Why would they? Duquesne is the least desirable job of any A-10 school and probably one of the least desirable in the Northeast. Subpar facilities (which they committed to improving), low attendance and a weak recruiting pool; how do you convince a coach that is winning at a smaller program to go to rock bottom at a new job?
Now with Rice, you have a guy who’s been at rock bottom (or still is if you consider going from D1 to high school). He was been trying to get back into major college coaching since the incident and the low profile he has kept in basketball has helped him rehab his image to an extent. And though it may not be in the best interest of a catholic university to hire a coach who has repeatedly been caught abusing his players, Rice is a native Pittsburgher and not only that, he has the bloodlines for the job.
Mike Rice Sr. starred at Duquesne before leading the program from 1978-1982. The Dukes made the NIT in back-to-back seasons in 1980 and 1981 under the elder Rice. They also finished tied atop the A-10 in each of those seasons. Their best since was in 1994 when they finished tied for third.
It is pretty sad a team hasn’t placed above third in their conference in over 30 years, but that is the reality of Duquesne basketball. If you think bringing in a guy like Rice damages this program’s reputation, think again. Because this program is irrelevant in not only college basketball but in this city. Obviously, the athletic department and the university would have to monitor him closely if he is brought in as coach, which would be understandable given his track record. But if Duquesne really wants to finally rise from the ashes, hiring a coach who’s chomping at the bit for a second chance to redeem himself would be the perfect fit for a program in desperate need of a change of fortune.