Barnard: Larry Eustachy may have broken the camel’s back

Colin Barnard

Larry Eustachy’s pedigree as a college basketball coach is undeniable.

The former Associated Press National Coach of the Year took the Iowa State Cyclones to the Elite Eight in 2000. He’s been to the NCAA Tournament five times, including once at Colorado State, and ranks within the top 60 in all-time wins as a head coach in NCAA history.

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His behavior on the other hand? That’s a different story.

Eustachy yells
Larry Eustachy reacts to a call during the Rams’ double-overtime loss against Wyoming on Feb. 1. (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

Fans know about his history at Iowa State, where he resigned after he was seen drinking and partying with college students. They read the report from the Coloradoan last year that revealed Eustachy created a culture of fear and emotionally abused his players in the 2013-14 season.

Now in the midst of the worst losing streak in his tenure at CSU, Eustachy may have lain the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

For the second time in five years, the university launched an investigation on Eustachy and his behavior as the Rams’ head coach. The severity of the actions under review is unknown, but one thing is for sure: Eustachy’s conduct caused enough concern for the athletic department to take serious notice.

Following the first instance in 2013-14, former athletic director Jack Graham recommended that Eustachy be fired with cause. Instead, the coach attended a series of anger management sessions and was given a strict zero-tolerance policy regarding his behavior towards players, coaches and other members of the team.

The simple fact that an investigation is ongoing does not appear to bode well for his chances of upholding that zero-tolerance policy.

In basketball senses, Eustachy’s past success has been far from matched at CSU.

The maddening cycle of successful seasons intertwined with mediocracy that has followed CSU through Eustachy’s tenure is evident. After inheriting an experienced, talented team his first season, Eustachy led CSU to victory over Missouri in the NCAA Tournament. The following year saw CSU drop below .500 in the MW.

The Rams won 27 games in 2014-15 before again failing to repeat the success a season later. Last season, the junior college-laden Rams made it to the final of the MW tournament; a year later, the Rams are stuck in a downward spiral. Eustachy’s reliance on junior college transfers enables this cycle to continue.

CSU’s struggles in the preceding weeks are not all on Eustachy. Injuries to the team’s two leading scorers have forced players into a larger role, whether or not they’re ready for it.

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Blowing late leads in three consecutive home games, though, is attributable to coaching. As Eustachy has continued to say, his team played well enough to win in each of those games. Oddly enough, they lost.

Offensive miscues and defensive breakdowns in the final five minutes of all three games leave Rams fans wondering what is going on in the huddle.

Despite the controversy both on and off the court, many Rams have voiced their support of Eustachy since the investigation began.

“I love my coach, that’s all I’ve got to say,” guard Anthony Bonner continued to say after the Rams’ loss to Wyoming.

“We’ve got his back 100 percent. Whatever’s happening is happening, we’re just focused on the game, it’s as simple as that,” forward Deion James added. “I can’t speak for others, but as of right now, everybody’s trying to focus on winning, getting some Ws.”

Other players, both current and former, took to social media to explain that Eustachy’s hard-nosed, old-school approach to coaching is what makes him so successful.

If that’s true, someone forgot to tell this year’s Rams.

Collegian sports director Colin Barnard can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.