It's been four long, sad decades for the Rice men's basketball program. There have been a few moments of levity -- the opening of Tudor Fieldhouse, Morris Almond's mid-range jumper, Willis Wilson's mustache -- but, by and large, the tale's been one of cumbersome academics and milquetoast community support.
|Kazemi's allegations include both racial and religious slurs from the AD.|
In 2013, though, that was supposed to change. With Ben Braun's hiring a half-decade ago, a bumper crop of recruits suddenly started spinning through Tudor. Decades of grind gave way to sudden promise. On the backs of guard Tamir Jackson and forward Arsalan Kazemi, both of whom generated talk of professional play from their earliest days, 2013 was set as the year that Rice finally broke from the decades-long doldrums and jumped to something approaching respectability.
And then, everything collapsed. During the off-season, assistant coach Marco Morcos left, eventually taking a half-dozen members of the team, including Kazemi, along with them. (You may have noted Kazemi's name recently, as he led the 12th-seeded University of Oregon to an improbable Sweet 16 run.) Everyone noticed the smoke, but no one could pinpoint the fire. And then, last week, Sports Illustrated informed us why Kazemi, the first Iranian-born NCAA men's basketball player, and his compatriots had fled the program en masse.
It seems that Rick Greenspan, who landed Rice's athletic director position after the construction boom of the Chris Del Conte years, determined it would be funny if everyone within earshot knew that Kazemi, who'd played his first three years with Rice, was of a different nation, a different religion and, per Greenspan's penchant for stereotyping dark-skinned 19-year-olds, a different political bent:More »