Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate CSU Rams Community!

Column: Larry Eustachy's “brutal honesty” could be hurting Rams morale

BSN Denver Avatar
December 23, 2015


Sometimes, a win doesn’t feel like a win.

On Monday night, the post-game press conference had a weird, tense feel to it all. To start, we got Joe De Ciman and only the senior leader for questions for the second straight home game. Even though De Ciman only scored three points and four other players enjoyed career-highs. De Ciman even joked at the awkwardness of him having to be up there by himself again, saying, “I’m the player of the game.”

But things really got awkward when head coach Larry Eustachy sat down for his portion of the question and answer session.

“Just don’t bother asking me a question, because I’m not going to answer your questions,” Eustachy told Coloradoan writer Matt Stephens. For the second straight game, one of the handful of writers was denied asking a question, and the stage was set from there.

Eustachy let us know we were playing in his arena, under his rules. Play his way or take the highway.

It’s the same story for players.

On Monday afternoon, former Rams star Daniel Bejarano tweeted out, calling for his former coach’s job:

Bejarano was at once, the best player for Colorado State in 2013-14 and 2014-15, and at the same time seemingly always in Eustachy’s doghouse. The old ball coach was making an example out of the young and wild Bejarano, who would shoot wildly from 30 feet out when a pass would have led to an easy bucket. The player was named Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year in his sophomore season and then second-team All-MW as a junior and senior, but he would also regularly get pulled from games and sat on the bench.

Eustachy was quoted as saying Bejarano “Went from a puppy to a pit bull” in three years under the coach at CSU, but apparently the two are at odds once again.

For John Gillon, it’s been a similar rocky relationship with Eustachy, who is seen consistently barking at the point guard – as well as the rest of the team – from the sidelines. Gillon told me earlier in the year the communication between he and Eustachy has improved, but was he just towing the company line?

On Saturday afternoon in the loss to Kansas State, the coach stomped angrily four times because he wasn’t happy with his team’s performance, a display some fans deemed embarrassing via twitter, then yelled wildly at his team. On Monday night, there was Eustachy doing his “rage dance” once again. With Colorado State up 36-25 against USC Upstate – a team they should handle with relative ease, especially at home – Eustachy was enraged at what he deemed poor play.


Following the timeout, he sat J.D. Paige and Emmanuel Omogbo on the bench and continued yelling at them as their teammates continued to play. After the coach walked away, they looked at each other like, “Really, dude? Why is he yelling at us this much?”

With that being said, his harshness has produced results.

There’s no doubt about it: Larry Eustachy is a great college basketball coach. Look at his resume and look at what he’s done in a relatively short time with Colorado State. The Rams have been ranked in the Top 25 twice since his arrival in 2012; the last time they were without Eustachy was 1953-54. In 2012-13 he led the team to an NCAA Tournament berth and a win over Missouri in the opening round.

Add on top of his winning experience that Eustachy is himself worth the price of admission. Partly for his wild displays toward players and partly for the ones he puts on with the referees; the coach is sometimes the most entertaining part of the game.

But, as Eustachy put it Monday night after the game, he is “brutally honest” with players, and they don’t know how to handle him.

“A lot of them have not been brutally honest spoken to,” Eustachy explained. “We’re big on brutal honesty. They’ve never had it that way.

“And to see them change and to prepare them for what they’re really going to see instead of a silly basketball game, is cool. It’s why I do it,” he continued.

That brutal honesty has helped his team go through a mindset change, as he said, “For a team to respond like that, tells you that…they’re very much together and they’re very much into what the coach is selling. It just takes time.”

Over time, that brutal honesty may also wear thin on the patience of 19, 20, 21-year old players. It’s likely why Fred Richardson III said he’d rather sit on the bench and coach the rest of this season than play.

At halftime, Colorado State led 41-31, and even though USC Upstate made it a game by pulling within seven points, the Rams went wild from downtown and when they were up by 25 points, a new Eustachy came out to play.

He was there, enjoying the game, encouraging his players. He gave Gillon the “businessman’s” handshake and a minute later gave Antwan Scott a high five and patted him on the butt saying, “Great job young man!” as Scott exited the game. Scott, who led the Rams in scoring and started the contest in the injured Gian Clavell’s absence, was benched to begin the second half in favor of freshman Prentiss Nixon. Scott was visibly upset coming out of the locker room and onto the court, but coach seemingly wanted to smooth things over by congratulating him on his play.

Could the presence of President Tony Frank and Athletic Director Joe Parker have changed Eustachy’s mood? It seems unlikely; he is who he is, which is an intense, win-at-all-costs head coach. And after the game, Parker sat in on the press conference, just as he did after the Abilene Christian win, to listen in.

After the game, I asked Eustachy why his attitude changed during the game, from fiery and ferocious to affable and encouraging, to which he responded:

Eustachy’s quote finishes like this, “For a team to respond like that, tells you that…they’re very much together and they’re very much into what the coach is selling. It just takes time.”

What the coach is selling is defense and rebounding first, scoring second. For the fist 10 games of the season, this team didn’t want to play Eustachy’s way. After all, diving on the floor for loose rebounds ala Pierce Hornung in 2012 isn’t glamorous, and giving all-out effort on the defensive end isn’t “fun.”

But that’s the way the game must be played for a team like Eustachy’s, for a team like undersized and under-athletic Colorado State. They have to fight harder, want to win the game more than their opponents or they’ll be thoroughly whooped.

Gian Clavell started buying in a few games before his injury, even if the coach won’t give him credit.

“Gian’s been very influential in changing it even since he’s been hurt,” Eustachy explained of the team’s change in attitude. “He didn’t buy into it when he was playing. But now that he’s hurt, he’s buying into what we’re selling.

“You see these young men evolving, not just defense and rebounding, but (into) accountable people. Accountable, we did terrific in the classroom,” Eustachy said of his hopes this team is making the necessary changes to play his way and make it back to the postseason for a third time in four years under the coach.

Don’t forget, during the CSU Football kickoff against Savannah State, Eustachy told the crowd his team will make the “NC2A Tournament” this season. That goal seems a long ways away, both in terms of time and in terms of this team’s playing ability.

So, now at 7-5 overall, Eustachy’s team sits in the eighth spot out of 11 teams in the Mountain West and have a week-long break for the holidays. Will this team bounce back and continue on their winning ways or struggle the rest of the way?

“We’re up,” De Ciman told us of the mood in the locker room after the win Monday night. “That’s me and Tiel’s (Daniels) job. I’ve been in two school-record seasons and I’ve been here for a 16-16 season, so I think I have a good feel on how to control a locker room. We just need to trust each other as players…We’re fine. I think we have a really good coaching staff that keeps us focused. We’ll be alright.”

But will they? Only time will tell.


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?