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EGGERS: Pac-12 loses a teacher in Ed Rush; Mike Rice Jr. will resurface someday; PSU parts with two assistant coaches


From your local scribe regarding the major sports issues of the week:

• The Pac-12 will miss Ed Rush, who resigned Thursday as the conference's coordinator of basketball officials.

Rush went down for comments made to a group of officials during the Pac-12 men's tournament that suggested a "bounty" for a technical foul or ejection of a coach during the Arizona-UCLA game.

The referee who delivered the information to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott claimed Rush singled out Arizona coach Sean Miller, though Rush claims his plea for regulating bench decorum was directed at both coaches.

Doesn't matter. Rush blew it. He understands that. It's not something you joke about. That Miller was whistled for his first technical of the season in the game against the Bruins made it look really bad for Rush and hastened his departure.

Scott would have liked to keep Rush, because the longtime NBA official -- and former director of NBA officiating -- was good for a Pac-12 officiating crew that needed all the help it can get.

Charges of "bullying" and "intimidation tactics" have been made through anonymous quotes from referees who worked under him. I'm not been privy to inside information on the subject, so I don't know. "Ed can go volcano on you once in a while," says one NBA referee who nonetheless holds an enormous amount of respect for a man he once worked with.

"I'm surprised at any reports of misconduct," says Jay Reese, a radio sports talk show host in Bend who officiated college and minor-league pro basketball for 15 years and worked under Rush through three NBA summer leagues. "He was always professional and a tremendous teacher. I learned so much from him. He opened my eyes on a lot of things."

I've known Rush for more than 20 years. He was one of the most respected referees in the NBA through the '90s and continues to work with young referees in the league's developmental program.

"Ed is the best teacher of refereeing there is today," the NBA referee says. "He has taken videotape breakdown to a new level."

"I can assure you Ed is a tremendous teacher of officials," says a second NBA referee. "He has been trying to change the culture of (Pac-12) referees, a very difficult thing."

NBA referees believe their college counterparts take too much guff from coaches because they are concerned about being blackballed by the offending coaches. One of the NBA refs, incidentally, told me that Miller's sideline reputation is as a "maniac. If there is one coach in that conference who needs to reel himself in, it's Miller."

Whatever Rush's influence, it's gone now. And perhaps now, with the influx of television money, it's time for the Pac-12 to hire not only Rush's replacement but full-time officials in both football and basketball. If quality is really the issue here, that's the solution.

• Video doesn't lie, and after watching clips gone viral from Rutgers practice sessions, it's impossible to defend the reprehensible actions of Mike Rice Jr., fired Wednesday after three seasons as men's basketball coach of the Scarlet Knights.

In the video -- shot, I'm told, during his first season at the helm -- the son of Blazer TV analyst Mike Rice was a hothead and out of control, going beyond the verbal abuse that was the "old-school" approach of so many coaches of our past.

I'm amazed that, as Rice was heaving balls at various legs, chests and heads, at least one of the objects of his scorn didn't turn around and pop him. I mean, seriously.

What hasn't been reported is that Rice took strides in changing his behavior after being fined, suspended and sent to counseling last fall following athletic department scrutiny of his misdeed. Reports are that he toned down the act after his return.

How much progress Rice made, I'm not sure. Judging from some photos I've seen since the practice video went viral, his coaching style during games seemed to remain bombastic. Not a good idea for a coach already skating on thin ice.

I met Rice through his father, when the son was a player and young assistant coach at Fordham in the early '90s. Seemed like a nice young man in those days. Rice, now 43, has shown some coaching acumen, having done wonders in his first head job at Robert Morris before arriving at Rutgers, where the sledding was rougher.

Rice, who had two years left on his contract with Rutgers, will coach again someday. Probably as an assistant coach on a Division I staff at first. He'll have an opportunity to resurrect his career. Second chances are abundant in sports if the talent is there.

But he'll carry the taint of his Rutgers legacy forever. There's no getting around that.

• A word about his father, a former head coach at Duquesne and Youngstown State who joined the Blazer broadcasting team in 1991, my third year covering the club for The Oregonian.

I've had fun with Rice in columns over the years. As a broadcaster, he's a malaprop waiting to happen. Few names are immune from mispronunciation. It's been hard to resist exposing all of this in print at times.

But Rice has never once complained. He has never been one to sweat the small stuff. Rice is popular among his peers and has been a regular source of entertainment for his viewers, who regard him as a favorite eccentric uncle who knows quite a bit about the game of basketball.

Rice has always expressed great pride in his son and enjoyed it immensely as he followed him through his career. It's a tough time for Rice, but he was a trooper Wednesday night, working the Blazers-Grizzlies game with his usual professionalism.

I wouldn't have expected anything less.

• Regarding the allegations of improprieties in the Auburn football program -- notably, of illegal payments, recruiting improprieties and academic fraud -- by Selena Roberts of Roopstigo.com and the subsequent backpedaling and denials by players quoted in the piece:

I'm going to guess that Roberts, a well-respected reporter whom I knew during her time at the Orlando Sentinel and New York Times, isn't making this up and doesn't have a vendetta against her alma mater (class of '88).

Will this lead to NCAA sanctions and vacating the Tigers' 2011 national championship? If so, it could take awhile. College sports' national governing body has plenty of other investigations -- including Oregon's -- to complete first.

• Regret the news of the passing of NBA referee Greg Willard, who died Monday of pancreatic cancer at age 54.

Willard was an understated, trustworthy official who commanded respect from coaches, players and his officiating peers. He was also a fitness buff -- I often saw him in health clubs in hotels throughout the country -- and a popular figure in the NBA community.

"If you didn't like Greg Willard, it wasn't him, it was you," says one of Willard's peers. "We lost a really good guy."

• Portland State men's basketball coach Tyler Geving has fired two of his three assistants after the Vikings' 8-20 season -- Andy McClouskey and Eric Harper.

McClouskey, who played on some great Ralph Miller teams at Oregon State and then coached at OSU, Nevada and Boise State, had been with Geving for three seasons.

Harper had been a member of the PSU staff since 2005.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers