"A very difficult decision," Rice said of leaving the Costa Mesa program. "I had been there for four years and had a great time doing it. In the end, having a full-time teaching job and being able to take care of my family, especially in this economy, I had to take the [geometry] job at Tustin.
"I planned on coaching [at Costa Mesa] for a long time. I went and made myself more attractive, getting a second teaching credential in math. I already had one in history. Unfortunately nothing was available for me at the school."
Saying goodbye to the school he loves was emotional for Rice, 31, who lives in Costa Mesa.
His last season was his best at the school. He guided the Mustangs (19-10, 6-4 in league) to their first CIF Southern Section playoff win in seven seasons.
Phil D'Agostino, the school's principal, said losing Rice, a 1999 Costa Mesa graduate, is a huge loss, but he added that staffing is very tight at Costa Mesa. He said the school plans to begin its search for a new coach right away.
Beside recording the most victories in a season at Costa Mesa, helping the program break through in the postseason with a first-round win and claiming the Battle for the Bell rivalry against Estancia this season, Rice is more proud of the relationships he built with his players and their families.
"Costa Mesa is a great community and I learned a lot from the kids," said Rice, who led the school to three postseason appearances, a 43-64 overall record, and a second-place finish in league once. "The 19 wins were great, but it wouldn't have been as fun if it weren't for the special group that we had. This was my first class. I had them for four years."
Many of those players graduated from Costa Mesa this week. Rice now finds himself moving on from that same school.