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Two Rutgers players voice support for fired coach Mike Rice

In the aftermath of the firing of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, which includes the call for the firings of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and university President Robert Barchi, two Scarlet Knights players came to the defense of their former coach, who lost his job Wednesday after a public outcry over his abusive behavior.

“I feel if people had a chance to see the other portions of practice, or had been at practice, their judgment would not be as severe,” Austin Johnson, a sophomore forward, said Thursday in an interview with the Associated Press. “I am not saying what he did wasn’t wrong, because I do believe it was wrong. But it is also tough because it was a highlight reel of his worst moments.”

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Wally Judge, a junior forward, was just as supportive.

“You can’t let those individual moments define what he was,” Judge told AP. “In my past two years, me being an older guy and being under other coaches, I have grown from the moment I stepped in these doors, not only as a player but also as a person because of how he has treated me.”

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Rice was originally suspended for three games, fined $75,000 and ordered to attend anger management classes after an internal investigation last year. Eric Murdock, the program’s former director of player development, brought the abusive behavior to the attention of the administration, including video footage of Rice pushing, hitting and throwing basketballs at players while berating them verbally, which included the use of gay slurs.

“Honestly, a lot of the things that have been seen have been taken out of context,” Judge said. “A lot of things that aren’t seen are when we grab him and kid around. Like I said before, when people ask me why did I play for him, I told them, ‘He’s a players’ coach.’”

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Johnson echoed Judge’s thoughts.

“He did a lot for us off the court, academically, socially,” Johnson said. “I have to say I enjoyed my time, even it was an emotional roller-coaster.

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“I never expected for this to escalate as fast as it did. We have to deal with this and it’s new for a lot of the younger guys.”

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Mike Rice is fired as basketball coach at Rutgers

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