Blogs > The Full-Court Press

Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Phil Martelli: Mike Rice 'won't take a backseat to anyone' in the Big East

As Robert Morris pounded away at Villanova in the NCAA tournament, building a double-digit second-half lead before eventually falling in overtime, Phil Martelli sat in the stands, impressed but not at all surprised.

Surely Martelli, whose Saint Joseph's team had an uncharacteristically poor year and missed the postseason, wouldn't have minded seeing Big Five rival Villanova -- the Hawks' clear superior for the past several years -- tumble to a first-round upset.

But Martelli's real interest was on the opposite sideline. His son, Jimmy, was a Robert Morris assistant, and his former protege, Mike Rice, was then the Colonials' head coach. What was transpiring stunned the thousands watching nationally on TV and nearly ruined untold numbers of brackets. Martelli, though, wasn't stunned, and neither were Robert Morris' players.

"Here's what I said to Mike afterward and that I've repeated to him several times since that game," Martelli told The Trentonian: "All the credit in the world goes to Mike and his staff because they had a 15 seed believe they were the better team that day, and not just because they were ahead. When that day started, because of Mike's preparation, they knew they could win. With some of those 15 or 16 seeds the game's over is soon as the ball is thrown in the air, but not them."

Rice, who has led Robert Morris to back-to-back NCAA tournaments and taken the Colonials to the postseason in each of his three years at the Pittsburgh school, will be introduced Thursday as the new coach at Rutgers.

The rebuilding job in Piscataway will be unlike almost any in the country. The Scarlet Knights, who fired Fred Hill last month after an outburst at a Rutgers-Pitt baseball game, never finished higher than 14th in the Big East under Hill, whose 13-57 conference record was the worst in conference history.

If the circumstances weren't dire enough, leading scorer Mike Rosario -- who's mere presence on the roster helped earn Hill a contract extension before the 2008-09 season -- is transferring to Florida, continuing a wave of departures over the past year that has further depleted the Knights' roster.

Rice, therefore, will endure countless setbacks. Even a modest turnaround is unlikely to make headlines or propel the Knights into the middle of the pack in the Big East, but any immediate progress at all will be hard to come by.

But Martelli, who mentored Rice when the latter was a Saint Joe's assistant from 2004-06, was effusive in his praise of Rice -- and in his confidence that Rice can energize the Knights' fan base and turn the program in the right direction.

"He's a basketball coach 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," Martelli said. "He has a passion for teaching the game and a work ethic second to none. He won't get out-worked in preparation, in recruiting, or in promoting the program. .... He won't take a backseat to anyone."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home