Fired Rutgers Basketball Coach Tries to Change Image

By Brenda Flanagan

“It’s something I’ll never get over.”

Call it Mike Rice’s Act of Contrition. It comes just six months after Rutgers University fired its former basketball coach for abusing his players — hurling both basketballs and anti-gay slurs.

SOT 20/20

All of it caught on tape. Now, he’s back on camera, talking to Robin Roberts on 20/20.

SOT 20/20

“I think people call it the Apology Tour,” said.

PR expert Phil Swinbinski says Rice wants to rehab his Bad Boy image.

“He’s looking for positive interview opportunities to try to improve his image to get his goal — which is to get back into coaching,” Swinbinski said.

Rice and his wife both sit for interviews. He’s the cover story of this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Look familiar?

“Well it’s hard not to think of Anthony Weiner. I thought that was very effective for him at the time and for a while I thought he was gonna come back in that race. And then of course his problems resurfaced,” said.

The Times reporter calls his story a “…key component of every shamed celebrity’s blueprint for rehabilitation.” In it, Rice says he’s a changed person who won’t act out like this anymore, that he’s taken anger management classes and learned to be sensitive to gay and gender-identity issues. He desperately wants another chance.

“People like to forgive. People like second chances. Especially in a field like athletics,” said.

Rutgers officials aren’t commenting. Neither is Mike Rice, who is currently coaching after-school basketball clinics for third- to sixth-graders. Rutgers students had mixed reactions.

“He can give himself a shot but people go back to their old ways. So I don’t know if he will work it out,” said.

“He can try. It’s always worth a shot. Sometimes people can change. They have before. Whether he will is up to how much effort he puts into it,” said.

“This is damage control. Right now this is a PR push. And the question I’m asking is — what’s actually been done that would lead to a different outcome?” asked.

Sports psychologist Mitch Abrams says Rice revealed that he learned this coaching style from his dad, that the whole family played sports with a relentless focus.

“The intensity that got him where he is is still there. I think that’s the mistake. People don’t realize that intensity is helpful — it’s useful. But if you don’t have someone teaching him where that line is and how to pull it back, you’re likely gonna have that same situation all over again,” Abrams said.

He says people will forgive you once. But it’s hard for them to forgive the same mistake twice.