Embattled Colorado State Rams men’s basketball coach Larry Eustachy (seen above in a January game against San Diego State) has resigned, and the school’s former athletic director who hired him has weighed in with strong praise for the move.
Eustachy has been on a paid leave of absence since earlier this month with an ongoing school investigation into his “abusive” behavior towards players, and there have previously been reports the Rams would fire him outright. That hasn’t happened, but Eustachy has now agreed to resign as coach, take a $750,000 settlement as a renegotiation of his $3 million exit clause, and continue being paid for this season as a “special assistant to the athletic director” through July 1.
The really interesting part in that Denver Post story from Matt Stephens may be the comments from Jack Graham, the former Colorado State AD who hired Eustachy in 2012:
From former Colorado State athletic director Jack Graham on Larry Eustachy resigning. pic.twitter.com/UMewFkq541
— Matt L. Stephens (@MattStephens) February 27, 2018
Graham brought Eustachy in after he had an impressive run at Southern Miss, but there were plenty of questions at Colorado State. The Rams got off to a good start on the court, making their second straight NCAA tournament in 2013 and recording Eustachy’s first tournament win since a 2000 Elite Eight run with Iowa State.
Eustachy signed a contract extension that made him the highest-paid coach in the Mountain West following that, but the school conducted an internal investigation in 2014 that recommended firing Eustachy, finding that he “created a culture of fear and intimidation and emotionally abused his players.” (That investigation, which only became public last year, included Eustachy admitting to calling players “f—-g c–ts” and going “way over the line.”)
Last year, Graham (who oversaw that investigation) told Stephens (then at the Coloradoan) he recommended firing Eustachy in 2014 after that investigation, but was overruled by school president Tony Frank:
“I believed Eustachy should be terminated and believed we had the basis to terminate for cause,” Graham, who hired Eustachy in 2012, said when reached for comment. “I was advised by Tony Frank that we did not have the basis to terminate for cause and that Eustachy was to be placed on a personal improvement plan.”
So it’s not new that Graham (who was himself fired by Frank in the summer of 2014) wanted Eustachy gone before this, but the level of criticism of Eustachy in his quote is pretty unusual for any former athletic director. And it goes to show how much of a mess this Colorado State situation is. As Stephens’ latest piece indicates, Eustachy may have improved since the 2014 investigation (which only led to him being required to attend anger management classes and face a “zero-tolerance” policy), but the issues didn’t stop there:
While the specifics of the latest investigation haven’t been revealed, sources close to the team who were interviewed by [athletic director Joe] Parker, deputy athletic director Steve Cottingham and compliance director Shalini Shanker said they relayed incidents of verbal abuse by Eustachy, including times that he singled out players and berated them with profanities, particularly behind closed doors during halftime of and after games.
“We really did think Eustachy’s behavior improved after the 2013-14 season and into 2015 and 2016,” a university source said. “But this season it became obvious that there were still some issues.”
After Eustachy was put on paid leave, the team was briefly coached by long-time Eustachy assistant Steve Barnes, but he was suspended with pay after coaching two games while players boycotted practice and claimed he was even more verbally abusive than Eustachy. The 11-19 Rams are currently being led by interim head coach Jase Herl. And it will be interesting to see who they turn to next.
But the Eustachy era certainly didn’t go as well as anyone hoped (after that 2013 season, where they lost to eventual champion Louisville in the second round, they haven’t returned to the NCAA tournament), on or off the court. And Graham’s comments about Eustachy are remarkable for their severity, and suggest things were badly wrong in the Colorado State basketball program even in 2014.