Former Aggie head coach, Ute assistant Larry Eustachy overcoming addiction, marks 10th year since last drink (+video)
"A good friend texted me the other day that our offense seemed out of rhythm. Well, that's Tim Miles' fault, because we're running his offense. So, blame him," Eustachy said, chuckling. "I'll be accountable for the other areas, the ones that we're leading the nation in."
Eustachy's players appreciate his candor, because if he doesn't like something, well, he doesn't hint around. His door is always open, too, as senior forward Pierce Hornung recently found out. The two chatted for more than an hour about all things basketball.
"It's never a bad thing to get outside your comfort zone. It's never a bad thing to have change as long as you embrace it with the right attitude," Hornung said. "You can have two attitudes — buy in or get frustrated. One of them works and one doesn't. So, we chose to go with the one that does."
Eustachy will love seeing that sentiment.
See, he doesn't pay attention to stories written about the Rams. But he will have his assistants cut out quotes from his players, just to make sure they're delivering the proper message.
"It's not going to be a smooth sail, but nobody wants to hear how rough the water is," Eustachy said. "They want to know if you rowed the boat home — that's the bottom line. I believe in our guys and I feel they believe in me."
They do at that. His baggage from the past? Didn't really matter to his players.
"All we cared about is that he's a successful coach everywhere he's been. That's the reputation we heard and cared about," Hornung said. "He's a very well-respected coach."
Eustachy has only had four losing records in 21 seasons at Idaho, Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Miss.
His best season was 1999-2000, when Eustachy had Jamaal Tinsley and Marcus Fizer running the show and helping the Cyclones to a 32-5 record, along with a spot in the final eight.
For that, Eustachy was named AP coach of the year.
"The guy who should have that award is Jamaal," Eustachy said. "We were 15-15 the year before and then he showed up and we were 32-5. So I became AP coach of the year in one year?"
That trophy rests on a shelf in his office. On this day, it had just been dusted and sparkled under the lights. Eustachy insisted the trophy — along with other trinkets around his office — were only on display to impress potential recruits.
To validate this point, he hollered down the hall to his director of basketball operations, Tiffany Beckham, who also worked in the athletic department at Southern Miss.
"Hey Tiffany, have we ever had this coach of the year award out?" he said.
"No," she quickly answered.
"I try to earn respect," Eustachy said. "You don't see me wearing rings or watches in front of my players. I've got to earn their respect, through showing them I kind of know what I'm doing.
"I'm really comfortable with who I am. But life's a journey. Is it a smooth sail? No. We all have our demons and our struggles. We just do."
Since giving up drinking, he's channeled his energy into hoops.
"I watch more film. I put more thought into it," said Eustachy, who has two sons. "I don't think I've ever put more time into teams than I have recently."
He also never strays too far without a Diet Coke in his hand. He had 40 12-packs of the soda stacked neatly in a corner outside of his office, just so he doesn't run out.
"Ever since I stopped drinking, I've started drinking these," he said, hoisting a fresh Diet Coke can. "It's really bad for you, but I got to have something. I gave up cigars a year ago."
The letters still arrive from all over, random folks reaching out to offer encouragement. He tries to answer as many as he can, but he's fallen behind.
"I'm so bad at writing back. But they do mean so much," Eustachy said. "It's a deadly disease. So if I can help someone, that's neat."
On April 23 — his mom's birthday — he will celebrate 10 years of sobriety.
A big milestone, right?
"It's about as good as a 24-hour chip, because it's only as good as the day you have it," Eustachy said. "The chips (to mark sobriety) were very important to me at one time. But you learn and you see some people that have been there a long time and something happens. It's an issue you deal with every day."
Pat Graham can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pgraham34
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