December 5, 2023 – Basketball brought Tony Rice around the world. After graduation, the Briggs High School alum moved to Staten Island, New York, to play Division I basketball for Wagner College. Now, he’s found himself back on Columbus’ west side, where his basketball career began. This time, however,  instead of playing basketball, he’s coaching it. 

“It was a dream job for me to come back home to the neighborhood where I started and help these young kids,” Rice said. “To see these young men grow is a win for me.”

Rice has coached the Briggs boys basketball team for over a decade. In that time, he’s seen generations of students from their first day of high school to their last. One of those students was Brandon Eaken. Eaken started playing basketball during his freshman year. With a height of four feet nine inches, he may not have looked like a typical basketball star, but Rice saw his determination to improve his game. 

“It didn’t matter [to Coach Rice] that I wasn’t the best at basketball; he still got me working every day with him,” Eaken said. “He helped me even off the court. He was always there.”

Eaken was a member of the Briggs graduating class of 2023. Since then, he has begun his professional career in the workforce. However, like Rice, he was drawn back to Briggs, where he works as a volunteer coach.

“I want to show the kids that they can [succeed,]” Eaken said. “For the kids to see me only six months after graduating and doing well for myself - I feel like that’s good for them to see.”

Rice said one of the most essential parts of his job is making students feel confident in themselves. He wants his students to leave Briggs with high self-esteem, knowing that, like Eaken, they can succeed in whatever they choose. 

“It’s a beautiful process to watch these young men grow,” Rice said. “A lot of these kids lack confidence. My main goal, as a coach, is to get these young men to believe in themselves.”

Jordan Fleming is a junior at Briggs. He’s been on the basketball team with Rice since his freshman year. He said he wasn’t as dedicated when he first joined the team, but Coach Rice’s expectations for his players led Fleming to push himself beyond what he thought he was capable of. 

“When I first started, I wasn’t super committed,” Fleming said. “Then, Coach Rice said some real [honest] stuff, and ever since, I’ve been in the gym with him working to get better.”

Rice holds his players to the highest standards. He expects them to work hard on the court and in their academics. Districtwide, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA to play on an athletic team; however, Rice is proud to say that his varsity team has exceeded that expectation with a 3.2 cumulative GPA. 

Rice said his high expectations for the players prepares them for any opportunity they wish to pursue after graduation. 

“These young men think life is just around 270, but the world is so big,” Rice said. “Education will lead you to all types of [opportunities.]”

As Rice begins his 14th season of coaching, he has no intention of slowing down. He hasn’t won a championship game with his Briggs team yet, but he continues to work towards that goal. In the meantime, he regularly wins a championship of a different sort. 

“I’m here to mentor these young men and build on my legacy that way,” Rice said. “It’s like a championship all day.”