What makes Leon Rice tick?
Leon Rice would prefer that people be more like dogs.
The 52-year-old Boise State basketball coach has always had a soft spot for canines.
His two most recent dogs, Roscoe Commander Fluffy Paws and Frodo Doggins, were rescues from Spokane and Boise, respectively. Roscoe passed away in the spring, leaving Frodo as the clear man of the house.
There’s something about a four-legged companion that puts a smile on Rice’s face, even after a hard day of work.
“There’s a loyalty and an unconditional love. There’s just something special about the way they are every day,” said Rice, who noted that he would run a doggie day care or work for the Humane Society if he ever stepped away from coaching.
“You can go away for 20 minutes and they’ll act like they haven’t seen you for two years. I think there’s a lot to be learned from a dog.”
Rice has other interests beyond basketball, dogs and family. If you ask him to pick a favorite movie or TV show, you’re in for a discussion of at least 10 minutes.
It starts with sports, of course. Rice loves watching ESPN College GameDay each Saturday morning during football season.
He naturally gravitates toward basketball on TV, rooting for players he coached at Gonzaga, where he was an assistant for 11 years prior to taking over at Boise State in March 2010.
Rice loves comedies, and opts for “Modern Family” when it’s television time, and for comedy classics such as “Caddyshack,” “Stripes” and “Animal House” when it comes to movies. He also enjoys edgy movies such as “Pulp Fiction”; they make him think outside the box. Rice likes to have no idea where the plot is taking him.
As far as superheroes are concerned, he hesitates before opting for Batman over Superman.
“That is a hard journalist question,” Rice says. “I appreciate Batman more because he’s just a guy.”
Then there’s the wild card and a confession: Every Sunday for as long as he can remember, Rice and his wife, Robin, watch Oprah’s “SuperSoul Sunday.” He couldn’t tell you what channel it’s on, but he knows where to find it on his DVR. He loves the interview portion of the show.
“You don’t know SuperSoul Sunday?” Rice asks. “That’s awesome. It’s a great show.”
Yes, he’s a little unconventional, highly friendly and maybe a bit atypical for a coach in the intense world of big-time college basketball. His first foray into coaching after graduating from Washington State was at middle and high schools in Washington; it coincided with student teaching, night school and managing a local bar until 2 a.m.
That evolved into coaching stops at the University of Oregon, Northern Colorado, Yakima Valley Community College, Gonzaga and Boise State.
Leaving Yakima for Gonzaga was difficult, he said.
Same for the Gonzaga-to-Boise State move.
At his core, Rice conducts himself as a man of loyalty.
“I really thought long and hard about leaving, because that’s kind of who I’ve been. It’s the same thing when I left Gonzaga. It took me a long time to leave,” Rice said. “I think that’s kind of always been my thing, bloom where you’re planted.”
Michael Katz: 208-377-6444
Leon Rice spent 12 hours with the Idaho Statesman on Oct. 11. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., reporter Michael Katz and photographer Kyle Green followed Rice from practice to meetings to the weight room and to his home, all to profile a day in the life of Boise State’s basketball coach. IdahoStatesman.com