Blue retires Rice's jersey

Daily Sports Editor
Published February 21, 2005

With Michigan in the middle of a nine-game losing streak and its star player being suspended for the remainder of the season, the Maize and Blue faithful have fallen on hard times.

It took one of Michigan basketball’s biggest winners to finally give them something to cheer about.

During halftime of yesterday’s game against Indiana, Glen Rice — who played for the Wolverines from 1986 to 1989 — became the fourth player in Michigan history to have his jersey retired. His No. 41 jersey joined the likes of Cazzie Russell, Rudy Tomjanovich and Phil Hubbard, whose jerseys already hang from the rafters of Crisler Arena.

“Since I was a little boy, this was the house that Cazzie Russell built,” Rice said while addressing the crowd. “And I appreciate being able to occupy a room in it.”

Athletic director Bill Martin helped Rice unveil his jersey at midcourt during the halftime ceremony. The No. 41 was then unfurled from the rafters of Crisler Arena, allowing the sell-out crowd to get as loud as it did all day.

“It’s going to be incredible to see that that jersey’s never going to be worn again,” Rice said. “I wish I could put it on today.”

Rice didn’t put the jersey on, but he did take his jacket off. He stepped up to the 3-point line after the ceremony to take a few shots. He missed his first five attempts, but, after the warm-up, he drilled a shot from five feet beyond the 3-point line in the same sweet form that made him famous.

The Flint native is arguably the most famous face in Michigan basketball history. He led the school to its only NCAA Championship in 1989, an improbable run by a team that few expected would make any kind of impact.

Then-coach Bill Frieder resigned two days before the NCAA Tournament began after accepting a job at Arizona State. But the Wolverines rode the coattails of one the greatest performances in Tournament history all the way to the title. Rice set an NCAA Tournament record with 184 points in six games — a record he still holds today.

Rice’s incredible playing days in college spawned a successful 15-year career in the NBA, where he was elected as an All-Star three times and won a championship in 2000 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was also named the All-Star game MVP in 1997.

The Wolverines paid honor to Rice not only at halftime, but before tipoff as well. After breaking the team huddle, each member of the starting lineup walked over to the opposite end of the court, where Rice was sitting, and shook hands with the Michigan legend. The crowd then cheered Rice until he stood to acknowledge the fans.

This weekend’s trip down memory lane actually included a few firsts for Rice. It was the first time back on the court of Crisler Arena for Rice since the memorable 1989 season. He also viewed a tape of the 1989 NCAA title game with a former teammate on Saturday night for the first time in his life.

“I was sitting alongside Loy Vaught, and it got emotional,” Rice said in a press conference before the game. “I didn’t realize how great that run was until I watched it. It was one of a kind.”

While a miracle run through the NCAA Tournament may not be in the cards for this year’s Wolverine squad — save for a miracle run through the Big Ten Tournament first — Rice said that support for Michigan now is as vital as it has ever been.

“I think it’s going to be very important for each and every individual that is supportive of Michigan to stay strong with them,” Rice said. “Continue to give them the belief and that confidence that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”