Halftime of Rutgers-Notre Dame a few weeks ago, Speaking with a few Rutgers cheerleaders about their white uniforms (which was mentioned in On the Banks). Official Ed Corbett is heading out to the floor. Corbett sees me talking with the two young ladies, gives a thumbs up and wink. “You know him,” one of the cheerleaders asked. Yes, I replied, explaining my officiating background and the fact Corbett has been an instructor of mine at a few officiating camps.
Then proceeded to tell the ladies I officiated with Mike Rice once. “You got to be kidding.” they seemed to exclaim in unison. “I can’t imagine that, coach an official.” Given his in game intensity and a few rough situations (Big East last March) guess it is hard to imagine. A little background is in order.
One Summer morning about eight years ago I received a frantic call from the Eastern Invitational Camp at College of New Jersey. No officials were hired. Said I could get there and give them three games but the trip from my Lyndhurst home down the turnpike to Ewing, NJ is just over an hour. No problem.
Get to Eastern and was informed I will work with a coach/instructor, Mike Rice. “Know him?” the coordinator asked. “Yes, I covered his games as a player at Fordham.” Met with Mike who knew me. We discussed pre-game(s) coverage. Told Mike don’t worry about signals, coaches just want the call so verbalize. Pointed out he played a high level of college ball so he knew what would be a foul or not. We went over positioning but I added not to worry, if he was on the wrong side of the baseline I could adjust.
We worked three games with some competitive teams as CBA a well known Garden State program, a strong catholic school from Virginia and Neptune High School. Mike did great and really seemed to enjoy it. His most impressive calls were no calls where there was contact but the player played through it and the play was not affected. He handed any tough situation with poise and ease and even said to me during one time out how coaches “want everything.” Ironic assessment.
Overall, we had a great time working together and the games went well. I even write a column about it in Eastern Basketball Magazine.
That Fall Rice joined Phil Martelli’s program as an assistant at St. Joseph’s. He told me the article from Eastern Basketball was sent to recruits. Flattered I asked why. “To show,” Rice said, “the St. Joseph’s staff would do any task to help the student/athlete.”
Today, we refer to that Summer day when we talk casually. I still call Mike, ’one of my favorite officiating partners’.
While he can be intense on the Rutgers sidelines, he is approachable and will hear an official’s side. In the aftermath of last March and at Georgetown this season, Rice took the high road and chose his words carefully in heated situations.
Another reason I can say with pride, we worked on the court together.
Ironic was written at the Gaslight right near the Seton Hall campus on the eve of Rutgers’ meeting with their in state rivals. Well, at least it was chronicled following an officiating assignment….