-- FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For the first time in nearly three years, Mike Rice is a head coach in the state of New Jersey again, and he's off to a strong start.
Rice, who was fired by Rutgers in 2013 after ESPN's Outside the Lines aired videotape of him verbally abusing and throwing balls at his players during practices, coached his first game for The Patrick School (N.J.) on Saturday at the City of Palms Classic. The Patrick School beat Norland (Fla.), 54-45.
"I was very excited," Rice said after the game. "It was like starting over again. I'm very excited. I have a team that kind of fits my personality. I really love the urgency, the intensity, the passion. They played very hard, and they practiced very hard, so I knew we had tremendous preparation. It feels good to get the first one out of the way, that's for sure."
Rice was named the interim head coach at The Patrick School earlier this month, while coach Chris Chavannes is focusing on his duties as the school's principal. It's Rice's first head-coaching job since he was fired at Rutgers. In the two-and-a-half years since the airing of the video and its ensuing fallout, Rice worked with both John Lucas and The Hoop Group, a New Jersey company that runs camps and tournaments, and also coached his children's youth teams.
"You don't know what you miss until it's taken away," he said. "I have a great group of young men representing a tremendous school, so [I'm] really glad to be back."
Rice's position is expected to last until at least the end of December, but he's also expected to remain on staff once Chavannes returns.
"We're going to take it day by day," Rice said, adding that Chavannes will be back "at some point."
"I'm thrilled to be back in coaching," he said. "It's a passion I've had. My father was a college coach. People dream of the NBA, I dreamed of being a basketball coach. Whatever it may take me, I'm thrilled about the opportunity about The Patrick School. We're going to do great things with it."
Rice spent three seasons as the head coach at Rutgers, following three seasons at Robert Morris and stints at five schools as an assistant coach. In six seasons as a head coach, he was 117-82 overall, reaching the NCAA tournament twice and winning three consecutive regular-season championships with Robert Morris.
There are no imminent plans for Rice to return to the college game, but The Patrick School, and Saturday's game, is a big step in that direction. Rice was as fiery and intense as ever on the sideline Saturday, urging and motivating his players throughout the game.
Rice said he's going to have the same passion as a high school coach that he did at Rutgers, but he's obviously aware of what happened nearly three years ago.
"What's the sign of a bad player?" Rice said. "Makes the same mistakes. It goes to the team, it goes to the coach, goes for everybody in life. Try not to make the same mistakes. Try to improve and learn from those mistakes, and that's the sign of someone who's developing and learning, and it's never too old to do that."