Source: Rutgers to hire Rice

Rutgers will hire Mike Rice, who is currently the head coach at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, as its new men's basketball coach, a source with knowledge of the situation told ESPNNewYork.com's Kieran Darcy on Tuesday.

Rutgers is holding a news conference Thursday to introduce its basketball coach.

"He is the real thing," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said in a telephone interview. "People want to say it was at a lower level, fine! Or that he is 41, fine! He has only been a head coach for three years.

"I will be honest with you, I think he is going to excite the whole state," added Martelli, who was Rice's boss for two seasons. "I think that Rutgers will take its place -- it will take some building and patience -- but he is going to excite that fan base, the RAC and the basketball community that is New Jersey."

Rice, the Northeast Conference Coach of the Year the last two seasons, agreed to a contract extension last month that would have kept him at Robert Morris through the 2016-17 season.

Rice replaces Fred Hill, who resigned two weeks ago after agreeing to a settlement that avoided a bitter court battle. The Scarlet Knights were 47-77 under Hill in four seasons, including a 13-57 record in the Big East.

Rutgers had threatened to fire Hill because of a number of issues, including some related to his involvement in an incident at a Scarlet Knights' baseball game against Pittsburgh on April 1. His father, Fred Hill, coaches the Rutgers baseball team.

There were calls for Hill's firing after the season. However, athletic director Tim Pernetti decided to give Hill another year to turn the program around, in part because it helped the school avoid a $1.6 million buyout.

Things changed on April 1 when Hill yelled obscenities at coaches from Pittsburgh after a baseball game at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights had just defeated the Panthers.

A Pittsburgh school official complained to Pernetti and he told Hill to stay away from the Rutgers-Pittsburgh game the rest of that week, but he disobeyed the order.

Rice led Robert Morris to the last two NCAA tournaments and the Colonials scared ninth-ranked Villanova in this season's opening round before losing 73-70 in overtime.

Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore, whose team lost to Robert Morris in the NEC tournament title game, said Rice will bring passion to Piscataway.

"It is a great fit for Rutgers because the job is one where it is now requires a great deal of enthusiasm and passion, and he has that in bunches," said Moore, a former assistant under Jim Calhoun at Connecticut.

The fiery Rice also will demand that his teams play defense. Robert Morris was among the NEC's best in field-goal percentage and scoring defense, using a tough man-to-man in his three seasons.

Moore was impressed with the way Rice held his players accountable on defense, noting a defensive error was more likely to get a player pulled out of the game than an offensive mistake.

Robert Morris went 73-31 during Rice's tenure, including a 53-9 mark in the NEC. The Colonials won or shared three consecutive regular-season championships.

"I pay him the ultimate compliment -- he is a basketball coach," Martelli said. "He should not be labeled strictly as a recruiter. He should not be labeled strictly as a game coach or strictly as a public relations guy. He is strictly a basketball coach. I would say his style of coaching is that he competes and he demands that his players compete."

Martelli is somewhat amused that people were surprised by how well Robert Morris played against Villanova. He said that's the way the Colonials played every night.

Rice, who took Robert Morris to the NIT in 2008, will take over a team with little talent and big holes. Guard Mike Rosario, the Scarlet Knights' leading scorer the past two seasons, is transferring to Florida. Hamady Ndiaye, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, graduated from the team that went 15-17 last season, including 5-13 in the conference.

Martelli thinks that the challenge of turning around Rutgers excited Rice.

"I think that is the reason Mike took the job," Martelli said. "I think he is going to get up every day and say, 'Let's get better.' He is going to expend every ounce of his energy and efforts and he will expect that from his staff, the players and the administration. It is a requirement for him taking a job that Rutgers be relevant in the Big East."

Rutgers has not made the NCAA tournament since 1991.

"I would almost guarantee that he will not say to himself once next year, 'What did I get myself into?'" Moore said. "You have to be forward thinking and in that league every day is a fight, and that's what he is. He is a fighter."

Among those considered for the position were former Philadelphia 76ers coach and Rutgers alum Eddie Jordan, former Boston College coach Al Skinner and former Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico coach Fran Fraschilla, who is currently working for ESPN.

Rice was an assistant coach at Fordham -- where he also played point guard -- Marquette, Niagara, Chicago State, Saint Joseph's and Pittsburgh.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.