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The Party Ends for an Admitted Alcoholic
Grant Wahl
May 12, 2003
LARRY EUSTACHY: FORCED OUT
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May 12, 2003

The Party Ends For An Admitted Alcoholic

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Though Eustachy insists that he never drank until his workday was done—none of the 10 former players, assistants or boosters SI spoke to provided evidence otherwise—he admits that a flight from St. Louis to Des Moines last week marked the first time he had boarded a plane sober in 25 years. "I would always make sure there was a bar at the airport and that I could take a direct flight, usually late at night," says Eustachy, who rarely traveled with his teams. "Then I'd have five or six drinks, sometimes a few more, just so I felt more comfortable."

Eustachy also concedes that he had a double standard about drinking: one for himself, another for his players. In an effort to curtail team drinking last fall, Eustachy declared bars off-limits to players in-season and on Feb. 7 even gave each player a Breathalyzer test. When sophomore center Jared Homan was arrested for public intoxication in March (he pleaded guilty and was fined $155), Eustachy says, "I gave him the speech about how you're going down the wrong path. I was the alltime hypocrite."

It wasn't until late January, Eustachy says, that he realized he needed to get help. After his wife, Stacy, found him drunk in the kitchen, she wrote a long letter urging him to change or face ruining their 15-year marriage. (They have two sons, ages 10 and 8.) Eustachy waited for the season to end and began counseling in New Orleans last month. He will continue his sessions indefinitely in Ames, he says. Eustachy will not reveal the specifics of his treatment.

Following Eustachy's press conference last week, a neighbor left a note on the coach's doorstep. It read, in part: We share the same drinking problem.... Watching you confess up to your problem encouraged me to write to you, and to ask you for your help.... Perhaps we could get over this obstacle together. "I'd like to bring him to meetings with me," Eustachy says quietly.

As news of Eustachy's troubles spread last week, several former players wondered if late nights and hangovers were to blame for what they saw as his chronic mood swings and verbally abusive behavior. According to Frederick Lovett, who played at Idaho for Eustachy, the coach's favorite term of derision was to call his players "f———c—." Says Frank Waters, another former Idaho player, "He was verbally abusive. I didn't know at the time if it was alcoholism or the pressure of winning and losing. You never knew what mood he was going to be in. He was always on edge."

Partly as a result, Eustachy's teams have been marked by heavy turnover, with 10 transfers over the past five years at Iowa State alone. "Players were always coming and going," says Myron Simms, who played under Eustachy for two years at Utah State. "He ran it like a CBA team."

A national TV audience certainly caught a glimpse of Eustachy's temper in a 2000 NCAA Midwest Regional final loss to Michigan State, when he received two technical fouls and was ejected after a profanity-filled meltdown against officials in the game's waning seconds. The NCAA censured Eustachy for his outburst, and he apologized to the Iowa State community.

For his part, Eustachy defends himself with vigor. Was he verbally abusive? "No," he says. "Did I raise my language at times? Sure." Why so many transfers? "The way I coach is not for everybody, but the guys who stay with me would cut off their right arm for me."

Even Eustachy's detractors allow that his teams have always been well-prepared (he has a 260-145 record in 13 seasons as a head coach), and he has no shortage of supporters among players past and present. Paul Shirley, a former Cyclone playing in Spain, wrote a guest column in Eustachy's defense last week in the Register. And former Idaho star Orlando Light-foot, who plays professionally in Lebanon, calls Eustachy "the best thing that ever happened to me. He turned me into a man."

As the Eustachy drama neared conclusion, it briefly reverted to farce. At a campus rally attended by 200 Eustachy supporters last Friday, one student ripped up the sign of the lone dissenter in the crowd (who merely brought out another sign, and then another). In Columbia that night, the comedy club Deja Vu offered the Coach Eustachy Special: a beer and a kiss from a waitress.

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