NEW YORK — Who would’ve blamed Mike Rice if he had Jim Boeheim/Jim Calhoun-like moment?
The referees screwed up the ending of the Rutgers-St. John’s game in a way that wasn’t with precedent this year, and is extremely unlikely to be duplicated any time soon. Because of a no-call (read: a lazy no-call; a no-call that should bring down a punishment for three officials who are considered on the level of a tenured professor), Rutgers didn’t have a chance to earn an upset. It’s unlikely Rutgers would’ve won against St. John’s, but of course that’s not the point.
The point is they didn’t get the chance. The point is the game ended 65-63, Red Storm. Rice had his chance to blow off some steam. He did that on the court, when he thought a foul was committed on Robert Lumpkins. Then, after he saw the video on his SID’s iPhone, Rice, maybe let loose some more—behind closed doors.
But when put in front of hundreds of media members, Rice was reasonable, funny, understanding and paced.
“It’s a judgment call,” he said. “It’s something three great officials — I’ve had ‘em all throughout the year, impeccable reputation, it’s unfortunate. Believe me, there is going to be blood coming through my tongue right now, but it’s what it is. We’re going to control how we respond.”
And so Rice took question after question about the final 10 seconds of the game. When a mistake is this grand, everything else that leads up to it is deemed insignificant.
“Was there a mistake made? I saw it on YouTube,” he said. “There was a mistake. They will admit it.”
To the Big East’s credit, the conference immediately did. It came out with an official response. It reads:
“The Big East acknowledges that two separate officiating errors occurred at the conclusion of the St. John’s vs. Rutgers game. Both missed violations should have caused the game clock to stop and a change of possession to occur prior to the endof the game. Neither error is reviewable or correctable under NCAA playing rules.”
The officials, for the record, were Tim Higgins, Jim Burr and Carl Walton.
The reason why Rice wins here: he remained composed. He was self-deprecating and made light of the situation as best he could. Not a lot of coaches can or are willing to do that. Especially when they’ve just lost their last chance to earn an NCAA bid.
“I was a lunatic, to be honest with you,” he said. “And I lost some self-control, I admit it, and I thought he (Lumpkins) got — again, it was a judgment call. Had I known it was 1.2 (seconds), I might have literally held on, done a Van Gundy and held one of their legs on the court.”
So what do we learn? Foremost, we learn Rutgers made the right choice in choosing Rice last spring after it fired Fred Hill. In his most-exposed moment this season, the Scarlet Knights’ head coach handled himself in a way that flies in the face of what the three men in stripes did at the end of the game.