By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – David Cox wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when he was thrust into the position of interim head coach. Aside from the fact he’d never been a head coach at the college level, his team was headed for turmoil with Mike Rice suspended.
But after guiding Rutgers to a 3-0 record in Rice’s absence, Cox was grateful for an unexpected opportunity.
“For me personally, having the opportunity to lead, to make decisions, to make calls, a very very good and valuable experience and I’m thankful for that,” Cox said after Rutgers’ 68-56 win over Rider at the RAC. “Not anything that I necessarily wanted to happen.”
Neither did the players. But it was because of them that Cox was so appreciative.
“I’m very thankful to have had this opportunity to coach this group of young men,” Cox said. “I said to them prior to the game that the greatest gift a coach can receive is the trust of his pupils, of his students of his players and they have whatever reason they have given me that trust the last couple weeks.”
In turn the team was able to stay afloat.
“This was a stop gap,” Cox said. “We had three games during that period where we had to hold the fort, or hold the rope as we like to say, which is what I think we did a great job of.”
Indeed they did.
No, they didn’t score any style points. But they weren’t needed. Just wins.
Not to mention the fact that the team banded together and forged a bond that they didn’t have before.
“We just had to come together and I think we did that well,” Kadeem Jack said. “Everybody came together and realized we were all we had and we did a great job coming together and playing together.”
Doing so with an us against the world mentality.
“We know it’s us against a lot of people because I feel like a lot of people before didn’t believe,” Dane Miller said. “And I feel like us getting these last three wins without the head boss I feel like people will feel like the team is legit.”
Which may be the case. At 9-2, Rutgers got through non-conference play with the record that most thought they should have.
And while there’s no denying Cox enjoyed the experience, he’s happy that the skipper is coming back.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” Cox said. “But with that being said I’m looking forward to the big guy coming back tomorrow so we can continue this climb that we’re trying to make as a program.”