I asked current Robert Morris men’s basketball coach and former Penn basketball player Andy Toole (C’ 03) Thursday about his relationship with fired Rutgers coach Mike Rice, under whom he served as an assistant coach from 2007-10 at RMU while Rice was head coach. Toole declined comment twice on the scandal two days after Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman absolved Toole of any suspicious behavior while announcing the findings of an internal investigation into Rice’s practices there from 2007-2010.
But Toole did have a lot to say about the state of Robert Morris’s program following a memorable first-round NIT home win over Kentucky last month and why he never wants to go up against Penn again.
Daily Pennsylvanian: There was obviously a lot of talk about you going to Siena — now that you’re back at RMU, where do you see this program headed in the next couple of years?
Andy Toole: I’m very excited about the direction of this program. I think we have a quality group that’s coming back, so I think what we’ve done here in the last six years and try and continue to just push the envelope in terms of our recognition as a program.
DP: What did it mean for your program to get that much-publicized win over Kentucky in the NIT?
AT: It was extremely exciting … For [the players] to get some of the recognition that they’ve gotten is terrific. Any time you can get that much national exposure, it helps in recruiting, it helps in notoriety and helps increase the brand of Robert Morris University basketball. That helps exponentially.
DP: What was it like coming back to the Palestra last season as an opposing coach?
AT: Extremely difficult, to be honest, because of so many great memories I had at the Palestra. Our first game there being Penn and Penn being a program that I root for very, very hard. And so now to have to spend days trying to prepare to beat that program and compete against that program, it’s something that was at times a little bit uncomfortable for me.
I know Jerome Allen and the coaching staff well and it’s a lot easier sometimes competing against people you don’t know, don’t respect or don’t like, so it was difficult experience for me for sure.
DP: Talk about your time with Penn basketball, what was it like being part of the Big 5 scene, playing under coach [Fran] Dunphy?
AT: It was an incredible experience. Being able to compete at a high level with a great group of teammates, a terrific coach in coach Dunphy and the rest of our coaches there at the Palestra with the support that the fans give in a great college basketball city like Philadelphia where you have so many great teams and a college basketball-hungry city. It was everything I could have asked for and more.
DP: Since you became assistant in 2007, what has been the trajectory of student interest in RMU?
AT: It’s increased a lot, it really has. When I first got here, athletics in general wasn’t a high priority, partially because some of the teams weren’t as successful. But we’ve been able to go to some NCAA tournaments and some NITs and interest in the program has really grown. And hopefully we’ll be successful in the years to come.
DP: Since you mentioned your discomfort playing Penn, is that something you wouldn’t want to do again?
AT: No, I would not want to do that again. I mean, I’d love to come play at the Palestra, but I don’t want to play Penn there.
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