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Keller @ Large: What Will We Tolerate In A Leader?

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Mike Rice. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Mike Rice. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Mike Rice, the now-fired head basketball coach at Rutgers University, must have had a screw loose during the period of time when, as the video that led to his dismissal documents, he verbally and physically abused his players, including shoving, kicking, and hurling vulgar, homophobic slurs.

Even in a sport that at times seems to celebrate excessive physical contact and loud, hectoring behavior, Rice crossed a line, and has taken Bobby Knight off the hook for the title of biggest college hoop jerk of all time.

But it’s worth noting that, unlike Coach Knight, Rice was not a successful leader at Rutgers.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Which raises some broader questions: what exactly makes a successful leader, and what are we prepared to tolerate in one?

Right now I’m halfway through “The Passage of Power,” the fourth volume in historian Robert Caro’s exhaustive biography of Lyndon Johnson. It documents how Johnson, taking office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, pushed through crucial tax and civil rights legislation that had languished under Kennedy with the combination of shrewdness, persuasion, bullying, dishonesty and cunning that made him a feared, respected, hated, and supremely effective tactician.

Do we care how Johnson did it, or simply relish the accomplishments his leadership produced?

Ask your staunchest Obama-supporter friends if they wish he was more adept at knuckling Congress under.

I bet that if Mike Rice had Rutgers in the Final Four this weekend, he might still be in that job.

Because in sports and politics, at least, doesn’t the record show that most of the time, the ends justify the means?

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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