Monmouth University has agreed to a five-year contract extension with head coach King Rice, the school announced on Friday.
Rice, whose stock as a head coach has risen with the success of his program, has led the Hawks to 55 wins over the past two seasons, with a pair of NIT appearances to go with it.
Rice gave his thoughts on the extension in the school’s press release:
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to lead the Monmouth program for five more years," said Rice. "When I got here I knew I was so fortunate and so blessed to be the coach here and after six years, to re-sign for five more means a lot to me and my family. I just feel very fortunate that I get to represent Dr. McNeil and Monmouth University."
Though Monmouth has failed to reach the NCAA Tournament during its recent run, Rice has led the program through a transition from the NEC to the MAAC, and improved his team’s conference winning percentage each season it has been in the MAAC. After a 2-2 start to conference play in 2016-17, Monmouth won 17 straight games before falling to Siena in the MAAC Tournament.
One additional factor that Monmouth beat writer Josh Newman pointed out on Friday speaks volumes about the culture that Rice has built.
3. The stuff MU has been able to do academically probably doesn't get enough play. APR was 942 when they showed up. Got to 1,000 last year— Josh Newman (@Joshua_Newman) August 11, 2017
For context, teams must have a four-year average Academic Progress Rating of 930 or a 940 average over the most recent two seasons in order to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament. When Rice came in, Monmouth was teetering on ineligibility. Now, the score is perfect.
While this extension likely won’t mean much if a high-major program tries to poach Rice sometime in the next couple years, it does show Monmouth’s commitment to keeping its seventh-year coach on board.
Next season does not figure to be quite as easy for Rice and the Hawks. They lose five seniors from last year’s team, led by the duo of Justin Robinson and Je’lon Hornbeak. Micah Seaborn, the team’s second-leading scorer in 2016-17, will be back, but Monmouth must account for losing more than half of its scoring.
The Hawks released their full non-conference schedule on Thursday, and it will feature plenty of early challenges. Monmouth will play guarantees at Seton Hall, Virginia, and UConn, meet Kentucky at Madison Square Garden, and visit Ivy League contenders Yale and Princeton.