FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Sometimes, Larry Eustachy isn’t in the mood to trudge through his alcohol-filled past.
After all, it was years ago when he resigned as head coach of Iowa State once photos of him partying with students surfaced. And this is a different Eustachy sinking deeper and deeper into the cozy, black leather chair in his new office at Colorado State, sipping one of his 14 Diet Cokes of the day as he chatted about his basketball team’s fast start to the season.
“There are times I just want to say, ‘I’m done talking about this stuff anymore,’ ” the Rams’ first-year coach lamented.
Only, he realizes the importance of talking about his battle with alcoholism. As many times as necessary, too, in part because of all the letters piled up on his desk at home, the ones offering support since they’re from people just like him – coping each day with the demons of the disease.
Maybe speaking about it – again and again and again – will reach someone. That’s his hope, anyway. That’s why he remains so open on the subject, even if he would much rather break down his team’s 10-2 start.
This April, Eustachy will mark 10 years of sobriety.
Eustachy has had plenty of friends and acquaintances who haven’t made it this far, who’ve slipped back into the disease – or worse. One step at a time, one day at a time, he’s managed to reassemble the pieces of his life.
“I think the only crime somebody can commit when they find themselves in the gutter is to not get out of it,” he said. “I’m really proud that I held myself accountable.”
Shortly after his resignation at Iowa State in 2003, Eustachy went into rehabilitation to treat alcoholism.
Following a year away from basketball, he was given another opportunity at Southern Mississippi, where he steadily built the program into a Conference USA contender. He turned in four 20-win seasons and led the Golden Eagles into the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 1991.
When CSU coach Tim Miles bolted for Nebraska last spring, Eustachy jumped at the chance to take over the Rams, a veteran team with elevated expectations coming off an NCAA tournament appearance.
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 his office.
“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.”
It’s on April 23 – his mom’s birthday – that he will celebrate his 10th anniversary 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.”