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Golden era of CSU Basketball ushered in by Eustachy

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March 10, 2015

Written by Rich Kurtzman

We’re all currently witnessing the greatest era in the history of the Colorado State Men’s basketball program.

It’s all thanks to the leadership of Larry Eustachy.

In three years as the head man in Fort Collins, here’s what Eustachy has done. He owns the two top records in program history, 26-9 in 2012-13 and 26-5 this year, with 26 victories being a new regular season record in 2014-15. His Rams have been ranked in the Top-25 twice in three years. Pre-Eustachy? The team cracked the Top-25 one, lowly time. And, after finishing this year’s regular season on a five-game winning streak, Colorado State will almost certainly make the NCAA Tournament for the second time in his three years.

To be fair, there was a stretch in the 60s when CSU basketball went to the NCAA Tournament 4-7 years and even made it to the Elite 8 once. Some may say that era was greater than this one.

But fast forward 50 years and it’s arguable Eustachy’s era has already been better. There are hundreds of Division I college basketball teams around now, meaning it’s more difficult to make the tournament. There are currently 347 Division I teams in fact, and only 68 (19.5 percent) make the NCAA Tournament. To be in that top 80.5 percent of college basketball teams is a feat to be proud of, especially considering the competition for talented players is at an all-time high as well.

Eustachy’s found diamonds in the rough in guys like J.J. Avila, Stanton Kidd and the team’s fourth-leading scorer Gian Clavell. The old basketball coach will continue to discover talent, too, both through junior college players and by developing high schoolers.

Consider this as a statement of Eustachy’s greatness: He’s the only coach in the history of college basketball to lead five different teams to 24-win seasons.

How? By preaching a “Team Together” approach. His players at Colorado State must love playing on the offensive end because Larry gives them a long leash to create in whatever ways they want. But when it comes to defense and rebounding – the cornerstones of his teams’ successes – they come first and foremost.

If one of his players doesn’t get back in transition, Eustachy will march out onto the court and call the youngster out in front of 9,000 fans. It’s happened to sophomore point guard John Gillon this season, and the coach has yelled in the face of Kidd, Daniel Bejarano; it’s probable every player has felt his wrath at some point in this year.

At 59 years old, Eustachy’s still as fiery as ever. He stomps on the sideline so hard you’d think his shoe would split at the seams. He screams at the team to run in the break following defensive rebounds, motioning his arm like a whacky windmill, hoping it pushes the players. He yells at officials relentlessly, working them throughout the course of a game, yet he rarely picks up technical fouls for overstepping his bounds, figuratively. The physical bounds, though, like the sideline, he breaks all the time as he goes onto the floor to give commands.

Eustachy is worth the price of admission himself. He’s passionate about the game of basketball and believes there’s only one way to play, with an all-out effort on both ends of the court, all the time. You’re tired, not giving it your all, not committing to defense first? Take a seat on the bench. He’ll sit starters and backups alike for not accepting the system and everyone has quickly learned to follow Larry’s leadership because it produces positive results.

This week, the Mountain West Tournament tips off in Las Vegas, with Eustachy’s Rams as the No. 3 seed, ready to play at 9:30 pm MT on Thursday. A win there will cement their NCAA Tournament trip, though CSU should be in either way. But, this team isn’t just hoping for one win, it has a legitimate chance of winning the Mountain West Tourney due to depth, strong three-point shooting and of course, defense and rebounding.

How deep into the postseason this team will go is anyone’s guess. As Eustachy has said every year, “We’re going to end too soon,” meaning he acknowledges the brevity of the season and the inability to progress as far as he’d like.

Still, as far as Colorado State fans are concerned, a trip to the Sweet 16 would be wonderful. In 2011-12, simply making March Madness was a big deal. In Eustachy’s first season, 2012-13, a win over Missouri was massive. But just making the tournament this year, with arguably the best team in recent memory, won’t be enough.

How far CSU will go, no one knows. But, enjoy the ride, Ram fans, because this is the best basketball your school has ever played.

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