Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
**Hit the Video Player at right for interviews with Seton Hall’s Patrick Hobbs, Joe Quinlan, Jordan Theodore and Jeff Robinson**
PROVIDENCE, R.I. –– If Mike Rice leads No. 15 Robert Morris to an upset of No. 2 Villanova today in the NCAA tournament, he will treat it like the Final Four.
“My daughter doesn’t even have us winning this game,” Rice cracked Wednesday. “No, you know what? I told somebody…that I’m going to cut down the nets if we win this game and they’d have to delay the game.”
Whether or not Rice wins this one, he is certainly one of the hottest names in the coaching ranks.
A 41-year-old Fordham alum, Rice is expected to meet with the administrators at Fordham at some point in the near future about that situation.
Sources close to Rice said he would also listen if Seton Hall called about the vacancy there created by Wednesday’s sudden firing of Bobby Gonzalez.
Ricehas ledRobert Morris to back-to-back Northeast Conference tournament titles and NCAA appearances. The Colonials are 73-30 on his watch over the last three seasons
A former Hoop Group camp director and assistant at St. Joe’s and Pitt, Rice has deep recruiting ties in the all-important New York/New Jersey/Philly corridor.
The current Robert Morris roster is littered with guys from that area, including former Paterson (NJ) Eastside star Karon Abraham, the NEC Rookie of the Year. Listed at 5-9, 150, Rice said Abraham is probably closer to 5-6, 135.
“Karon is not afraid,” Rice said. “Karon has no fear…That’s what I love about , whether it’s the New Jersey kids I have or my Philadelphia guys. It’s the same intensity and toughness that you find.”
Added Villanova coach Jay Wright: “I’ll tell you, we really are impressed with their team. They play a lot like we like to play…I’m very impressed with how he’s got Abraham as a freshman to defend so well and [Velton] Jones, the kid out of Northeast Catholic in Philadelphia, [Russell] Johnson out of Chester. They’re both redshirt freshmen. But they play like an experienced player.”
Certainly, Rice’s deep connections in this talent-rich area would help at either Fordham or Seton Hall.
Asked if that made him a more attractive candidate, Rice said: “I would think so. North Jersey, Philly and New York City is a hot bed of recruiting. It was when I was hired away from St. Joe’s to Pitt. They wanted somebody that did North Jersey to Philadelphia. Besides my experience at the Hoop Group, I had my St. Joe’s ties and Philly ties.”
One Division 1 head coach said Seton Hall is going to look to do a 180-degree turn from Gonzalez. So even if Rice is a fiery guy, he is stable and should be able to recruit local powerhouses St. Anthony, St. Benedict’s, St. Patrick and Paterson Catholic.
Rice certainly fits that bill. Just ask Jay Wright.
“I watched his teams from afar kind of as a fan,” Wright said. “I’ll watch any game. But preparing for them, I’m even more impressed with his ability to teach execution. His teams are very disciplined. You can see offensively, they’ve got some great concepts. We’re going to steal some for next year.
“And you can see he’s really, really thought out a philosophy behind how his team plays and its well taught.”
THARPE TO PROVIDENCE5-11 junior point guard Naadir Tharpe of Brewster Academy verbally committed to Providence.
“Yes, he committed to Providence [Wednesday] night,” Brewster coach Jason Smith said. “He has a very high basketball IQ, elite/level quickness and is an out outstanding passer with vision. He’s a big-time kid. People in their community will fall in love with him. He is outgoing and personable. He has great school spirit.”
Smith said Tharpe was hearing from Boston College, Virginia, UNLV, West Virginia, Indiana and Iowa State.
Rivals reports that UConn head coach Jim Calhoun this week will visit 6-8, 210-pound power forward Luke Cothron of Red Springs (N.C,) Flora Macdonald Academy. Cothron just decommitted from N.C. State. An Alabama native, he averaged 31 points and 14 boards.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.