Monmouth NJ basketball coach King Rice says job security not a concern

WEST LONG BRANCH – A lot has been said about Monmouth basketball this season, with the Hawks starting 1-20 before getting their first-ever Colonial Athletic Association win Saturday at North Carolina A&T.

And after a practice this week, coach King Rice had his say.

When asked what he’s seen from his team since returning from a successful road trip, snapping a 12-game slide, Rice on Tuesday said the recent performance is a reaction to what he feels has been speculation about his job security, while citing his past record and contract status as reasons why it’s not an issue.

“I think the kids are excited that the coach has a five-year deal, and when everybody has things to say, they want to support their coach,” he said. “So I think that’s what happened.”

Pressure had been building on the program during what had been a 55-day gap between wins, and Monmouth responded with its best game of the season against the Aggies, taking control over the final 30 minutes en route to a 79-64 victory.

Rice received a five-year contract extension, which runs through the 2025-26 season, after Monmouth got a share of the MAAC regular season title during the pandemic-impacted 2020-21 season.

“We do everything for each other,” Rice said. “The coach has a five-year deal and they hear a lot of stuff so I am sure they, you know, we protect each other around here. I’ve got a great contract to be the coach at Monmouth. So I’m sure they’re probably tired of everybody having things to say so they played well.”

In an interview with the Asbury Park Press last week, Monmouth athletic director Jeff Stapleton gave Rice and the program a vote of confidence moving forward.

More:Monmouth basketball is 1-19. What the AD says about coach King Rice, program’s future

“I think we’re going to be OK. Over 33 years of being here, this is not a pattern at all. Every program has its ups and downs, and I think we’ve been really successful under King,” Stapleton said. “He’s kept us near the top of the MAAC for those years, now we’re in a new league. I feel for how hard the coaches work and the athletes, and they are working hard and they’re just not getting the results they want right now.”

In his 12th season, Rice has a career record of 184-187. His teams won or shared the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title three times in the Hawks’ nine seasons in the league, with Rice named Coach of the Year three times.

They went 21-13 last season and lost in the MAAC Tournament championship game to Saint Peter’s, which went on to reach the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. It was the third time Monmouth had come within a game of returning to March Madness for the first time since 2006, losing to Iona in the final in 2016 and 2019.

“We’ve been building towards getting better,” Rice said. “All we do is what we do. I keep working, I keep my head low. Try to represent this school to the best of my ability. This year my team has been struggling, my body of work has not been a struggle, so having a five-year deal makes everybody understand that.”

While Monmouth does not release contract details, the school’s 990 tax form for the 2019-20 school, the most recent available, lists a base salary of $512,909, with another $61,899 in estimated other compensation. That appears to be in line with other CAA coaches. Delaware’s Martin Ingelsby, who brings the Blue Hens to OceanFirst Bank Center Thursday night, had a base salary of $430,319, with estimated other compensation of $55,344 for the same school year, according to the school’s 990.