Apr 152012
 
Authors: Cris Tiller

Larry Eustachy walked a different path in his life to get to this point.

In his life there has always been basketball. Since 1979 Eustachy has devoted his life to the game, to helping boys out of high school become men in society. He’s experienced the highest of highs in the profession, named the Associated Press National Coach of the Year in 2000.

But it’s the lowest of the lows that shaped the man you see today. Eustachy struggled with addiction, the battle with alcoholism too many of us are familiar with. It’s his victory over the bottle he names as his greatest achievement.

“I thought I was a rock star. I thought I was invincible,” said Eustachy at Thursday’s press conference. “It’s not whether you’re in the gutter; it’s whether you get out of the gutter. That is my best accomplishment, it’s not Coach of the Year awards or league championships, but honestly how I have handled adversity.”

And it’s the reason Eustachy’s the perfect man for the job.

Athletic director Jack Graham said one of his two requirements for finding the next men’s basketball coach was to make sure CSU was a long-term stop, not a stepping stone. Eustachy wants a home, a place to finish his career and leave a mark.

His goals in life go beyond winning games on the hardwood, but helping a community cope with a serious disease. Eustachy plans to set up a home for recovering alcoholics and give a portion of his yearly salary to the foundation.

It’s a sign that he wants to be here. It means he’s serious about involving himself in the community, and people will respond to that dedication.

“I told (Graham), ‘Whatever you want. Whatever it is.’ This is going to be home,” Eustachy said. “I have a lot of coaching to do here, a lot. I wanted to find a home, and this is home. It really is home.”

The most special places in college basketball became that way because of the unique bond between the team and the fans. With Eustachy at the helm, expect the bond to form like it never has.

Eustachy can connect with the student-athletes in a way no other coach can. His speeches about responsibility and decision making have weight only someone with experience can provide. And then of course there’s his coaching resume.

He’s won everywhere he’s ever been from his first job with Idaho to his latest stop at Southern Mississippi, earning a career record of 402-258 (61 percent). Eustachy’s taken his teams to the NCAA Tournament four times, with three different teams, going as far as the Elite Eight with Iowa State in 2000.

Only four times in 21 years as a head coach has a Eustachy squad failed to reach a .500 record, three of them coming at Southern Miss, his toughest job as a coach.

The most similar stop to CSU in Eustachy’s career was at Iowa State, where he had the most success. He won as many as 32 games and showed the ability to recruit NBA caliber players.

He has better talent to start with at CSU than he did at Iowa State, and with his NCAA experience, expect the new era of Ram basketball to start fast.

Graham searched for a long-term solution, a man who wanted to make Fort Collins his last stop. Eustachy’s journey to CSU was anything but easy, but at long last he’s found a place to call home.

Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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