Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Eddie Jordan is moving to Rutgers University to succeed Mike Rice, who was fired as the school’s men’s basketball coach after video showed him physically and verbally abusing players.
Jordan will join the Scarlet Knights with a five-year contract that guarantees him $6.25 million, Rutgers said yesterday in a statement.
Rice was dismissed April 3, a day after video broadcast on ESPN showed him pushing players, hurling balls at them and yelling expletive-laden homophobic insults during team practices. The handling of the scandal also led to the resignation of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, General Counsel John Wolf and assistant basketball coach Jimmy Martelli.
“There’s a healing process that has to be done,” Jordan said during a news conference at the New Brunswick, New Jersey, school. “I’m glad my team is here. We’ve got enough talent to exceed expectations.”
Calling it a “great challenge,” Jordan acknowledged many of his players are considering transferring to other schools and that recruits have decommitted in the aftermath of the Rice scandal. Junior guard/forward Mike Poole is among those leaving, having been granted his release, Jordan said.
“We still have hope for some other guys,” Jordan said. “I’ve mentioned to them, ‘If you’re 50/50 on coming back, don’t come back, but I’m going to try to make you 100 percent.’”
Jordan, 58, played point guard for the Scarlet Knights from 1973-77. He was on the team the last time the school reached the Final Four in 1976, and is the school’s career leader in assists and steals. Jordan was an assistant to Bob Wenzel when Rutgers last visited the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament in 1991.
“We’ve all come to a point where we have to regain our pride and our dignity and our integrity to our university,” Jordan said.
Jordan’s appointment followed two days of talks with school officials including President Robert Barchi, the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, reported April 14. Barchi resisted pressure from professors and state politicians to step down for his part in the scandal.
The hiring marked “a new day for Rutgers,” Barchi said yesterday. “This is the most fun I’ve had in front of TV cameras in the last month.”
Jordan secured his first head-coaching role in the National Basketball Association in March 1997 and went 33-64 over two seasons before being fired by the Sacramento Kings.
Following four seasons as an assistant with the New Jersey Nets, Jordan in 2003 took charge of the Washington Wizards and led the team to the playoffs four times before being fired in his sixth season with a 197-224 mark. He spent the 2009-10 season with the Philadelphia 76ers, when they went 27-55, and joined the Lakers in 2012.
Jordan also had stints as an assistant coach at Rutgers, Boston College and Old Dominion.
Rice was fired three months after being fined $50,000 and suspended for three games by Pernetti for his behavior toward players during team practices from 2010-12. Pernetti was forced to step down two days later following criticism for not firing Rice when evidence of his behavior was first brought to his attention.
Jordan said that he had the “same reaction as everyone” to the practice video and that he didn’t want to rehash it. He also said he’s always wanted to return to the school.
“I wanted to come here 10 years ago,” Jordan said. “I wanted to come here three years ago. It wasn’t because of what happened.”
Rutgers on April 8 named Carl Kirschner as interim athletic director and said it would form a committee to seek a permanent successor to Pernetti.
Jordan takes over a program that had a 15-16 record last season and hasn’t had a winning season since it went 19-14 in 2005-06. The Scarlet Knights have had losing records in 17 of the past 23 seasons.
“With the debacle that the program has been through lately, Eddie’s probably what they need right now, somebody who’s sort of like a son of the university,” Phil Sellers, one of several former Rutgers teammates of Jordan who were in attendance at the news conference, said in an interview. “He can bring those alumni back that might have turned their backs on the program because they weren’t happy with what they’ve seen.”
Rice was suspended by Pernetti three weeks after Rutgers was invited to join the Big Ten conference.
In addition to pitting the Scarlet Knights against sports powerhouses such as Ohio State University and the University of Nebraska, the switch will bring Rutgers a share of Big Ten revenue -- $265 million in 2010 -- which may help to reduce the annual payment the university doles out to the athletic department.
The subsidy reached $28.5 million in June 2011, the largest among 54 U.S. public universities in the six biggest football conferences, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Rice’s homophobic behavior came to light less than three years after freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself when his roommate broadcast video on the Internet of him kissing a man.
The roommate, Dharun Ravi, was convicted last year of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and other counts, served less than a month in jail and is now appealing his conviction.
The school in February named a center to honor Clementi, which will be used for anti-bullying programs and to help people adjust to college life.
To contact the reporters on this story: Dex McLuskey in Dallas at firstname.lastname@example.org; Mason Levinson in New York at email@example.com
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