We were watching his son’s team, Red Bank Regional High School, warm up before a recent game against the inauspiciously named Brick Township High. Red Bank looked like your average suburban high-school team, with the exception of one kid. When I asked Rice about him, he said: “The big man is terrible. Just watch.”
The instant the game got under way, Rice started pacing manically up and down the floor, yelling nonstop, his raspy voice echoing across the gym. He hollered at his team after every trip down the court, invariably singling out players both for doing something right (“Are you kidding me?” he said, when one of them squeezed between two defenders and laid the ball in off the glass. “You’ve got ballerina feet!”) or wrong (“Ben, you’re fighting for time! You get in the game and the first thing you do is give up an and-1?”).
Rice wasn’t berating anyone, and he definitely wasn’t abusing anyone. Yet if you’d been watching him that night, you might very well have thought, That guy is nuts.
He was right, though: The big man had a long way to go. After he made one halfhearted attempt to stop a much smaller opponent from driving to the basket, Rice did a sideline demonstration for him: “This is a lion,” he said, proceeding to roar loudly and menacingly raise both arms above his head. Then Rice lowered his arms limply by his side. “This is a wimpy little cat: Meow. Be a lion!”
[Photo Credit: Christian Felber]