Saturday, May 3, 2003

Coaches split on possible Eustachy firing

The Des Moines Register

DES MOINES, Iowa - Was Iowa State's move to fire basketball coach Larry Eustachy justified? Or is firing a coach who has just admitted he is an alcoholic and wants a second chance an even greater embarrassment?

"You have to look at what is in the best interest of the school and its reputation," former Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick said. "The institution's reputation and values is more important than anything that goes on in the athletic department or any program within the athletic department."

Others strongly disagreed.

"What Iowa State did to Larry - there's the embarrassment," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said.

Iowa State Athletic Director Bruce Van De Velde said Wednesday that the school was taking steps to fire Eustachy because the basketball coach had "exercised very poor judgment that has resulted in profound embarrassment ... to the Cyclone family."

Eustachy, 47, hinted Thursday that he plans to appeal his firing, saying: "I'd like to see a second chance. I'd really like to see it happen." He has until Monday to formally contest his firing.

Van De Velde announced his decision to seek the dismissal of Eustachy, the state's highest paid employee, hours after the coach acknowledged that he is an alcoholic, apologizing for his behavior at two after-hours parties following Big 12 Conference road games.

Eustachy said he informed school officials for the first time of his alcoholism in a meeting on Monday, the day The Des Moines Register published photographs and accounts of the coach's actions at parties in Columbia, Mo., and Manhattan, Kan. Eustachy attended parties on both campuses where he drank beer, got into arguments with men attending the parties and posed for pictures either embracing or kissing college-age women, according to published accounts.

Sampson, whose team won the Big 12 Conference Tournament title last season, said Iowa State's decision to fire Eustachy was "a knee-jerk reaction to an incident."

"There has to be a penalty, a reprimand, but I think firing Larry is a little strong," Sampson said. "I would have liked to have seen him reprimanded."

Another coach, Louisiana State's John Brady, agreed.

"Instead of rushing to judgment, which is what people do these days, and turn their backs on someone, I think Iowa State would do good by sticking by a good man," Brady said. "Sticking with Larry, in the end, would look more favorably on Iowa State and their vision for the future."

But Frederick, now a professor at the University of Kansas, said any athletic director would recognize that a decision will hurt someone.

"But what's at stake is the institution's reputation and how it can carry out its academic mission," Frederick said. "Unfortunately, the institution is a higher priority than any one coach or student athlete," he said. "You simply have to do what is best for the school."

Dutch Baughman, executive director of the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association, called the controversy about as difficult as it can get for any administrator.

"You have to analyze what is in the best overall interest of the school, the individuals involved and the impact on a program," said Baughman, a former athletic director at Oregon State. "Then you make your decision based on the values of the school you represent."

Baughman said he didn't know the details of Eustachy's situation well enough to make a judgment.

"But I know Bruce Van De Velde well and I know he wouldn't do anything off-the-cuff or without serious consideration," Baughman said. "That just isn't him."

Still, Sampson said firing Eustachy will hurt Iowa State's basketball program because of player defections.

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