Millions of people have watched from home the now-viral video that cost Rutgers University men's basketball coach Mike Rice and athletic director Tim Pernetti their jobs this week.

Sean Bannon saw the episode live.

The 23-year-old Linwood native and Mainland Regional High School graduate was a walk-on at Rutgers in the 2011-12 season and played for Rice.

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Bannon can be seen on a number of the clips shown on ESPN and other networks during the past few days. He was even hit in the back with a basketball in one clip but maintains the the video of Rice is worse than it seems.

"I don't think that two-minute video tells the whole story," Bannon said in a phone interview on Thursday. "The video wasn't necessarily indicative of how it was. It's really getting blown out of proportion, to be honest with you. Coach Rice cares about his players."

Bannon is a senior economics major this year and said the time commitment with basketball was simply too much.

"I would be willing to bet that 80 percent of the American public, if they had a camera on them for three years when they were at work and the cameraman needed to make a two-minute video of their worst moments, they would be on the hot seat as well," Bannon said.

Bannon's father played for Rutgers in the late 1960s.

Linwood resident John Bannon was a teammate of the late Jimmy Valvano at Rutgers before graduating in 1968

John Bannon, an orthopaedic surgeon in Somers Point, said it was commonplace for a coach to berate players in his day but that Rice definitely crossed the line at times.

"My opinion is that Mike Rice is a spinoff of Bobby Knight," the elder Bannon said. "I actually got to play against some of Knight's teams (at Army) and he was an extremely competitive, ultra-disciplined guy who still had a bad temper. But it was all about getting his players to put forth maximum effort.

"I think Rice is a passionate guy who spills over at times and unfortunately he spilled over to physical contact, which is over the line. I admire his passion and I admire his work ethic, but when you do that, you are over the line."

Sean Bannon said that Rice is far from blameless but that he was genuinely concerned about his players.

"When I told him I wasn't going to be back, he was totally understanding," Sean Bannon said. "He really appreciated the time I did spend with Rutgers basketball and he insisted repeatedly if I ever needed his help down the road to reach out to him."

Bannon said the last few days have been hectic. He's been bombarded with phone calls and texts from friends and members of the media. Bannon was even interviewed by TODAY's Natalie Morales on Wednesday. Bannon has been recognized from the videos around campus all week.

"It's been nuts," Bannon said. "My one friend said I was like an X-list celebrity because I'm on the Mike Rice video."

Contact John O’Kane:


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