The adventures of Larry Eustachy

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- On the court, Larry Eustachy has been successful at every stop. This guy can coach.

Some consider him better at X's and O's than the World Champion of Tic-Tac-Toe.

Idaho, winner.

Utah State, winner.

Iowa State, winner.

Southern Miss, winner.

Colorado State, winner.

Other than Iowa State, perhaps, these schools have slightly less tradition than the Harlem Shake.

"If you look at them, they're not considered the best jobs in those leagues," Eustachy said Wednesday. "We haven't had an easy job --- and by we, I mean our staff and our players, not just me.

"I'm proud of every stop."

With his third win this season --- his first season at Colorado State --- he reached 400 career wins.

Eustachy led the Rams to a school-record 25 wins this season and a school-best No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, as the Rams (25-8) get set to clash with the Missouri Tigers (23-10) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at Rupp Arena.

With this season's success, Eustachy became the first coach in Division I history to win at least 24 games in a season with five different programs.

That deserves a Gold star. When you do something no other coach has ever done, that's pretty good.

Off the court, he's also done some things no other coach has done. These weren't so good.

Flashback to Jan. 22, 2003. Eustachy was in his fifth year with the Iowa State Cyclones --- it also turned out to be his last year with the Cyclones, thanks in large part to his actions during a trip to Columbia to play the Tigers.

Eustachy didn't like to fly, so he drove wherever he could. The trip from Ames to Columbia was an easy one for the Jan. 21 game, which resulted in a 64-59 Missouri win.

The coach didn't go straight home after the game. Instead, he was partying into the early-morning hours in Columbia at the apartment of an MU student. Eustachy was drinking heavily, according to reports. He was captured in a dozen pictures, beer in hand, while embracing and kissing several different women.

He was married at the time.

"I was just getting started at that time of night," Eustachy told the Denver Post last April. "Just stretching."

Eustachy is an admitted alcoholic.

"I want the people of Iowa, and the fans of our program throughout the nation, to know how sorry I am to have disappointed them with some poor decisions I have made," he said in April, 2003, after the story broke. "But words are cheap at a time like this, and I hope to be measured by my future conduct.

"I am certainly aware of the role drinking has played in my behavior. I am addressing this matter."

He "resigned" from Iowa State shortly after this statement. His actions at the party were the final straw, but there were reports of similar happenings after a game at Kansas State in 2002.

"Iowa State, that was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said. "I recognized some issues and corrected them, that's what I'm most proud of."

Eustachy, 57, says he's been sober for nearly 10 years now. But he's still a voracious drinker --- of Diet Coke.

"When you live the life of an alcoholic, what is abnormal to others is normal to you," he said. "Going through a whole transformation and being sober, I see just how abnormal my life was. I missed out on a lot of things."

Those were the comments of Eustachy in 2004, his first year as head coach at Southern Miss, as he spoke with the Hattiesburg Times. He turned that loser into a winner during his eight seasons, from 21-38 his first two years to five winning seasons --- including a trip to the NCAA Tournament --- in his last six years.

He took over the Colorado State program after Tim Miles left for Nebraska. Under Miles, the Rams made it to the NCAA Tournament last year, losing to Murray State in the first round.

Enter Eustachy. This, he insists, is his destination job, the last stop on this long and winding road.

This is his Gold Star.

He's turned losers into winners everywhere he's gone. This time, however, he inherited a winner.

"This is my fifth time at being a first-year coach at this level," he said, "and this has been the most difficult because of the expectations.

"I just told (the fans) to give me time and I'll figure it out, the best way for us to play, how we should play, what our deficiencies are, what our strengths are. I finally got my head around this team in early January. They've been patient and they've made the transition easy."

This transition was not as big as the one Eustachy has made, however. For these days, he's even more successful off the court.

The Rams are seeking the school's first NCAA Tournament win in 24 years. If they get it --- if they do indeed beat the Tigers --- Eustachy will drink to that.

Diet Coke on the rocks, thanks.