For the full transcript from Rice's press conference and video of the halftime ceremony, click the following Mgoblue.com link: Transcript.
Wolverine fans know the story of Michigan's 1989 basketball championship all too well. Their hardwood heroes did the improbable that year. Then athletic director Bo Schembechler removed head coach Bill Freider from his position at the helm in favor of assistant coach Steve Fisher, stating, "A Michigan man is going to coach Michigan." Freider's acceptance of the head coaching position at Arizona State almost directly prior to NCAA tournament was the reason for the bold move. No one considered the Big Ten's third place team one of the legitimate contenders in the field of 64 on the heels of that jolting move. What they didn't know was there was a senior on Michigan's roster that was about to put together a string of performances that would go down as one of the best in the history of the sport.
Glen Rice’s 1989 tournament run is one of the most recognized achievements in all of college basketball. He set a tournament scoring record with 184 points in six games on his way to being named the tourney's Most Outstanding Player. Boasting accomplishments like career scoring leader (2442 points), single season scoring record (949 points), best single season 3-point percentage (51.56% in 1989), and Big Ten scoring titles in 1988 and 1989, he is the most productive scorer in Wolverine history. He carried his sweet shooting touch on to the NBA as the 4th overall pick of the Miami Heat in 1989. After stints with the Charlotte Hornets (1995-98 where he was All-Star game MVP in 97), the Los Angeles Lakers (1998-2000, where he helped win the 2000 NBA title), the New York Knicks (2000-01), the Houston Rockets (2001-03) and the Los Angeles Clippers (2003-04), he finished third in NBA history with 1,559 three-pointers made.
He is truly one of the all time great and this season he will finally receive the formal recognition as such. During halftime of Michigan’s February 20th home game versus Indiana, the former Flint Northwestern star saw his #41 retired from circulation. His is only the fourth Michigan basketball jersey to be retired, joining those of Cazzie Russell (1964-66), Rudy Tomjanovich (1967-70), and Phil Hubbard (1975-79).
The current basketball staff has placed has huge emphasis on connecting Michigan’s rich basketball past with today’s program. They have been instrumental in instituting long overdue gestures like retiring jerseys, and that is something that has not been lost on Rice.
"When you look at the circumstances created since Tommy has been here, it has been a very positive spin,” Rice said. “When you look at basketball, they have struggled a little bit because of injuries and different violations. I think Tommy is very well respected and since day one has been really trying to bring back the core of guys that started it. He continues to keep bringing them back, to have influence on the guys that are here now. Before, you could have seen a little bit of this, but not as much as since Tommy has been here. He has really been pushing that he needs the guys support and help; that is why we keep coming back. It means a great deal to me. I think when you go through putting in two…four plus years for your university and then you have a coach that is really reaching out to you and still believing in you and wanting you to continue to keep trying to have an influence over the program…that gets right to the heart. From day one, Tommy has done that with me. I can't speak for everyone else, but he has done that with me. I told him that whatever I can do to help you, the university, or your team, .I'll be here to try and do it.”
Rice had not set foot on the Crisler Arena floor since the since the celebration after winning the 89 title. It was fitting that his return was for an event of this magnitude. "It's a huge day for not only myself, but for the University of Michigan, and the people of Michigan,” Rice said. “One of the things I've always tried to do is represent myself with the utmost respect and represent Michigan with that as well. So far, I think, I've been doing a pretty good job."
Rice made it a point to focus almost as many of his comments on his former teammates as he did himself. The camaraderie built during his time at Michigan is obviously something that has lasted until this very day. "It takes more than one man to accomplish the feats that we did at the University of Michigan," Rice said. "I know when they raise that jersey today, all those guys' names should be alongside Rice's name; the numbers, the coaches. I'm no fool. I know it couldn't be done without those guys. I was blessed to have a great group of guys around me, including great coaches. I am very thankful for that. We all had faith. We all believed the he [God] put us together for a reason…whether that had been to win a championship or alter on in life helping each other out and just being a friend."
Rice also credited his former coaches with molding him early in his basketball career. Former Michigan coach Bill Freider was singled out as a mentor and father figure, while his high school coach at Flint Northwestern was credited with getting him to pick up a basketball in the first place.
"I would like to give a lot of credit to my head coach at the time [in high school], Grover Kirkland, for being in there pushing me," Rice said. "There were times that I didn't really want to play basketball, and I tried to stay away from it, because I was a skinny kid growing up and I didn't want to be involved with too much physical contact. It was forced on me and I'm glad that it was."
Flint Michigan was sort of a basketball mecca in the 1980's. It was a time when well known stars like Eric Turner, Jeff Grayer, Glen Rice, and Roy Marble and lesser known ones like Mark Harris and Terry Furlow ruled the hardwood. There were also great teams. Flint captured five consecutive Class A crowns in the 1980's. Central claimed the first three in 81, 82, and 83, and Northwestern won the last two in 84 and 85.
"When I was growing up, Flint was, in my mind, a basketball capital," Rice said. “In Flint, on any given hour of the day, any day, there is basketball being played -- and on a very competitive level. When you look at the history of the players that have come out of Michigan and the great Flint corps that has gone to Michigan State, it just goes to show you that basketball is alive in Flint and in all of Michigan.”
When the question switched to who would prevail in a match-up between those storied Central and Northwestern teams, Rice answered matter-of-factly. "We would have eaten those guys up," he said. "Before I even got to Northwestern, Jeff Grayer alone was eating those guys up. We're going to always talk trash because we were on one side of Flint and they were on the other. We definitely think Flint Northwestern reigns supreme."
As a Flint Central grad, I am certainly one that disagrees with his assessment!