On Friday afternoon, several members of the media that have been following the CSU/Larry Eustachy debacle were invited to a press conference held by Colorado State Director of Athletics, Joe Parker. It was intense. At first it seemed to be very casual as reporters started popping in. Some said a friendly hello to Parker while others thought it best to keep their distance. However, once [2:30] hit, Joe Parker was forced to get into a defensive stance. One by one, media members delivered blow after blow, grilling Parker about how he handled Eustachy’s resignation or rather, all of the events leading up to it. Perhaps the most interesting thing to me was one question in particular: “Would you let your kids play for Larry Eustachy?” Now, to start this presser off, Joe Parker was clear that certain things would be off limits as some information was protected by the Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act or anything that would violate a non-disparagement clause. So any questions that would lead to an answer that might be in fact disparaging was obviously not going to be answered. So going back to that question, Joe looked the reporter in the eye, hesitated, then basically said he would go with the “no disparagement” answer. That was essentially the theme of the press conference; anything that would harm Eustachy’s future as a coach, Joe stayed clear.
I did manage to ask him if he felt coaches like Eustachy; rough and tough, might be a dying breed. He said, “honestly I don’t know….It’s a new day.” New day for CSU and likely a new day, for better or worse, for coaches like Larry.
Here’s how I see it: Where CSU and Parker ultimately failed was by not monitoring the men’s basketball program any more so than other athletic programs. Parker said as much. It was as if, even with Eustachy’s controversial past, he was treated like just another coach. Now, with reports back in 13/14 that he created a hostile environment, his fallout at Iowa State, his self admitted (past) drinking problem, his anger issues and so on, it would seem obvious to me that he be on a tight leash. That was not the case. Another area where they could have handled things better was their communication with the players. Parker said he informed the players in the past that his door was always open. But for a player to go over a head coaches head, to me, would have to take something colossal, like Penn State bad. So the players never utilized that open door and Parker never sat down with them before putting their coach on administrative leave. They boycotted practice just to get his attention. It worked, but it was far too late. It should never come to that.
Where they did ok? Look, this was a tough deal. As I know from our listeners, this was not black and white. Some wanted him out, some wanted him watched more closely while some think that this is just an example of soft ball players not being able to handle a tough coach. The truth? I’ll wait for the book. But the truth probably is somewhere in the middle. Was Eustachy a drinker at one time? Yes. Did he get angry at his team, media and opposition? Yes. Did many of his players go to bat for him, even ones that have since moved on from CSU? Yes. To me, that would be difficult. On one hand, you have complaints saying Eustachy’s, as Joe put it, “language” was unacceptable while others were pulling on the other arm saying the players and fans just need to toughen up.
I like Joe Parker. I think he does a great job. However, even he says they could have handled this better; “In retrospect, I guess there’s probably more we could have done.” But it’s over….kind of… Larry Eustacy is some kind of assistant to the department but only if, in the words of Parker, “we need him, we will call him.” In other words, here’s $750,000 to not sue us or take this any further.
One more point: It was clear that Eustachy was liked and respected by CSU President, Tony Frank. He kept him on board when the current AD at the time of Eustachy’s hire, Jack Graham, wanted him gone. Was Joe Parker acting on Frank’s behalf? Was he doing his best to please all sides here? My gut, for some reason, tells me yes. That Parker was put in a no win situation. He won’t admit that, of course. He’s a professional, despite what some might think. Was this a situation where the powers that be strongly urged Parker to make this go away as quietly as possible? Sure seems that way to me.