White: Eustachy failing to meet CSU fans’ expectations

Austin White

Six years into the Larry Eustachy era of Colorado State men’s basketball and tension between the fans of the Rams and the head coach seem to be rising. CSU only has three conference championships in their program’s history and Eustachy seemed as if he could help put more trophies in the case when he was hired back in 2012.

Coach Eustachy looks to offical
CSU head coach Larry Eustachy questions a call made by an official during the Rams’ 72-61 win over Sacramento State on Nov. 10, 2017. (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

After this season, he will be second in CSU men’s basketball history for wins as a coach and could in fact take the spot over Wednesday night with a win over Air Force. But regular season wins are expected now and fans want to see progression into being a Mountain West powerhouse, a team that competes for an NCAA Tournament berth every year. 

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CSU was blown out by 25 points or more on the road this season by Power Five conference teams in the Arkansas Razorbacks and Oregon Ducks. Oregon previously lost at home to fellow Mountain West opponent Boise State a week prior to the Rams’ trip up to Eugene.

Losses to mid-major conference teams have been ugly as well with the Rams losing by 27 points to the Tulane Green Wave and 13 points to New Mexico State Aggies.

Coming off a season in which the Rams were one win away from winning the Mountain West tournament and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, this season is not what fans had in mind. Head coach Larry Eustachy has not made the effort to ease the fans’ disappointment either.

Toward the beginning of the season, the 27-year coaching veteran said that he was looking forward to the 2018-19 season and that next year would be a better year. This statement is something that fans believe they have heard too many times from Eustachy who is in the midst of his sixth season at CSU.

Fans have weighed in on social media about what they believe should be done with Eustachy with one fan even stating that he plans to not attend another game until Eustachy has been let go. The majority consensus seems to be that fans would like Eustachy gone, but do not want the university to pay his steep buy-out for his contract which would be around $4 million as of right now.

Eustachy’s reliance on transfer players over developing players has also raised red flags as this model does not bode much confidence in fans toward building a long-lasting successful program. Currently six of the 13 players listed on the roster are CSU original commits with four of them seeing significant playing time this season.

The structure for perennial powerhouse mid-major teams has been their reliance on senior players who have been with the program and know their coach’s system and philosophy. It seems that every March brings a new Cinderella team that is led by a senior or a couple seniors who bought into what their coach preaches and relays this message to the rest of the team.

With many transfers on the team, it seems as if CSU cannot establish consistency without having these types of upperclassmen leaders.

To Eustachy’s credit, there have been some great moments that the men’s team has provided over his tenure. The first one being that CSU qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2013 during his first year leading the team and they won their first round matchup over the Missouri Tigers before losing to the eventual national champion Louisville Cardinals in the second round.

In the 2014-15 season, the Rams started out 14-0 and were ranked 24th nationally for two weeks. Just last year, the Rams nearly qualified for the NCAA Tournament despite having a roster that utilized only seven players.

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However, these accomplishments are hard to attribute much credit towards Eustachy. Their first round win in 2013 was Eustachy’s first season, meaning pretty much all of the players were inherited from the previous coach. Last season could be a testament to Eustachy being able to guide his team through adversity. Many people had disregarded the Rams after three of their players were suspended due to bad grades after the first semester. The team disproved the doubters despite the slim roster, however, and almost went dancing.

But proving the outside voice wrong is a much easier motivating factor than having to prove your own coach wrong. When a statement like the one Eustachy made about looking towards next year is made, it is not only hard for fans to be interested, but could also affect the desire of the players to do their best, especially any seniors.

With a checkered past that included incidents at Iowa State and CSU and a shaky future plan, fans appear to be done with Eustachy. Still, a large number of fans also believe in the coach and believe he needs more time with this group of players since they do have only one senior and quite a bit of young talent.

Coaching changes are difficult to overcome due to the change in culture that comes with it and fans do not want to see the young talent wasted.

For now, fans are willing to stay by Eustachy’s side, whether they like it or not, and want to see if he can bring this program to the level that programs like San Diego State have risen to in the conference. If it turns out that Eustachy cannot reach this level, a goodbye will not come with much backlash from the Rams’ supporters.  

Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44.