The coach who said he wanted to finish his career with the Rams resigned Monday, following an internal investigation, led by athletic director Joe Parker, of his conduct and treatment of players, a university source told The Denver Post. CSU later confirmed the departure.
CSU will pay the 62-year-old Eustachy $750,000 in three installments (July 1; Jan. 1, 2019; and March 1, 2019) after his paid administrative leave ends July. 1.
The sides had been negotiating an exit since Feb. 8, when CSU decided it would not retain Eustachy.
Eustachy received a salary of $985,012 this season and had a buyout of about $3 million if he was fired without cause. The contract gave him nothing if he was terminated with cause. The $750,000 Eustachy will receive is a renegotiation of his exit clause, which also changes his title from basketball coach to "Special Assistant to the Athletic Director."
"The Eustachy era started on my watch. I hired him," said former CSU athletic director Jack Graham, who tried to fire the coach in 2014. "I'm sorry he was allowed to take control of another four classes of young men for what they had to endure. I'm thankful there won't be any more."
CSU's investigation of Eustachy's conduct was the second such assessment of the coach and the climate of his program in the past four seasons.
While the specifics of the latest investigation haven't been revealed, sources close to the team who were interviewed by Parker, deputy athletic director Steve Cottingham and compliance director Shalini Shanker said they relayed incidents of verbal abuse by Eustachy, including times that he singled out players and berated them with profanities, particularly behind closed doors during halftime of and after games.
"We really did think Eustachy's behavior improved after the 2013-14 season and into 2015 and 2016," a university source said. "But this season it became obvious that there were still some issues."
Eustachy was placed on paid leave after a report by The Denver Post, citing multiple sources, that the coach told his team that CSU president Tony Frank informed him that his job was safe despite the ongoing investigation. Frank's office denied having such a conversation with Eustachy.
Associate head coach Steve Barnes, 60, was named interim coach, but he was suspended with pay Feb. 10 after coaching two games. According to a source close to the investigation, players told CSU administrators about behavior by Barnes that was similar to Eustachy's. Barnes was a high school and college teammate of Eustachy's, and they had coached together for more than 20 years. Second-year assistant coach Jase Herl, 30, is now leading the Rams.
All men's basketball assistant coaches at CSU will have their employment agreements honored until July 1. However, Barnes isn't expected to rejoin the team. Herl told The Denver Post on Friday that he was informed he would remain interim head coach through the end of the season.
In a statement, Eustachy said it had been an honor and privilege to coach the Rams for six seasons, calling his time in Fort Collins "an incredible experience."
"At the end of the day, it is time for me to step aside and allow Colorado State to open a new chapter of Rams basketball. Likewise, this also gives me a chance to hit the reset button and then put all my energy into future opportunities," he wrote. "As hard as it is to step away from these players and my staff, it is the right decision at the right time for all concerned. I will always be a CSU fan and will cheer for the Rams wherever my path leads."
In 2014, Graham led an investigation of the program that found Eustachy verbally abused players and staff members, threw chairs and unopened soda cans and punted a basketball, in addition to creating a culture of fear and intimidation — something the coach admitted to. Graham recommended then that Eustachy's contract be terminated with cause, but Frank decided to keep Eustachy, ordering him to attend six anger management courses. Also, Frank instituted a zero-tolerance policy.
Eustachy wasn't allowed to be alone with his team and was required to have a senior official from the athletic department oversee his interactions. Mac McDonald, team athletic trainer for the Rams from 2011-16, said the oversight was heightened during the end of the 2013-14 season, when Eustachy's behavior was at its worst, and gradually decreased in the subsequent years.
CSU closed men's basketball practices that season, a policy that had remained in place until Herl took over.
In February 2017, McDonald informed Parker that Eustachy's abusive behavior had continued, including an incident in which forward Fred Richardson was repeatedly called a crude term for "weak" in front of teammates and was driven to tears.
According to a university source, Parker followed up with Richardson and other players who had run-ins with Eustachy, but they all said they no longer had an issue with the coach — further complicating the recent investigation.
"Deep down, I think Larry really had all of our best interests at heart and cares about his players, but I didn't then and would never agree with his method of coaching," Richardson told The Denver Post.
Former CSU guard Daniel Bejarano, who played for Eustachy from 2012-15, said: “I think to anyone, with two investigations, it doesn’t look good. So I think a change had to be made.”
This isn't the first time Eustachy lost his job as a result of his behavior. In 2003, he was fired by Iowa State University after The Des Moines Register published photos of him drinking with and kissing young women at parties on University of Missouri and Kansas State University campuses on nights after losses by the Cyclones there.
In five seasons at Iowa State, Eustachy went 101-59, led the Cyclones to two Big 12 Conference championships, the school's first appearance in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and was named the 2000 Associated Press and USBWA national coach of the year.
Success didn't come as naturally at CSU. After taking over for Tim Miles — who left CSU to be the head coach at the University of Nebraska — in 2012-13, Eustachy inherited a starting rotation that featured four seniors (all returning starters who made the NCAA Tournament the year before) and center Colton Iverson, a All-America transfer from the University of Minnesota. That team reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before being knocked out by eventual national champion Louisville. In the four full seasons since, CSU hasn't played in the NCAA Tournament and has made two NIT appearances (2014-15, 2016-17).
Eustachy twice helped CSU set the program's season wins record (26 in 2012-13; 27 in 2014-15), was named the Mountain West coach of the year last season in leading the Rams to the conference championship game despite having only seven eligible players (three were ruled academically ineligible for the spring semester) and is tied with Stew Morrill for the second-most career victories in team history with a record of 121-74.
The Rams are 11-19 overall this season and 4-13 (10th place) in the Mountain West.
Only two players have spent four seasons at CSU under Eustachy: Joe De Ciman (2012-16) and J.D. Paige (2014-present).
CSU plays Wednesday against New Mexico.