The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

April 4, 2013

Rice's abrasive nature apparent early on in career

(Continued)

The drive to succeed that made Rice such a success at Robert Morris — a Northeastern Conference school in Pittsburgh's western suburbs — wasn't part of a switch that Rice flipped on whenever he entered a huddle. It was always on, regardless of the situation.

Rice once knocked out one of his father's teeth while they were playing against each other. Former assistant coach Andy Toole, now the head coach at Robert Morris, once called Rice "crazed" by the game.

Born in Pittsburgh, Rice spent his childhood by his father's side, learning the Xs and Os while serving as a ballboy and engaging in lengthy debate over the dinner table. While in middle school, he once stood up in the middle of the Duquesne locker room and told the Dukes they weren't playing hard enough. The players taped him to a training table as a way of thanking him for the pep talk.

The passion that bubbled over into fury wasn't around — for the most part — during his days with the Colonials. Rice took over the program in 2007 and took Robert Morris to the NCAA tournament in 2009 and 2010.

In that second tourney appearance, the Colonials snared a No. 15 seed and took second-seeded Villanova to overtime before losing 73-70. Under the glare of the national spotlight, though, Rice showed a bit of the over-the-top behavior that would become his calling card — and ultimately his downfall. He erupted at the officials in the waning seconds of the game, screaming profanities at them as Robert Morris' bid for the upset fell short.

It was dismissed as a coach getting caught up in the crucible of the tournament. Rice even signed a contract extension later that month, proof of the confidence athletic director Craig Coleman had in the direction of the program and the man leading it.

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