A day after players boycotted practice, Colorado State’s men’s basketball team was back on the court Friday amid the ongoing turmoil surrounding suspended coach Larry Eustachy and his future with the program, a university spokesperson confirmed to 9NEWS.
Two sources close to the team confirmed Thursday's boycott, saying "we're all tired" of finding out information through the press and social media.
Athletic director Joe Parker released this statement following the players' boycott:
A university spokesperson informed 9NEWS that Parker met with the players Friday morning.
Eustachy, 62, has served as CSU's head coach since 2012. He is 123-74 with the Rams across nearly six seasons.
The school says they are near completion of its investigation of allegations that Eustachy verbally abused some of his players -- behavior specifically prohibited by the school after the university first investigated his conduct during the 2013-2014 season.
Eustachy was suspended with pay on February 3. Associate head coach Steve Barnes has since taken over head coaching duties. CSU (10-16, 3-10) is on a seven-game losing streak and is scheduled to play San Jose State on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Since news of the investigation broke on January 30, several former and current CSU players have been vocal in showing their support for Eustachy, either in press conferences or via social media.
Gian Clavell, a former CSU guard from 2014-2017, spoke with 9News last week about his former coach. Clavell admits that Eustachy does curse at his players but has always been a "professional" when it comes to his coaching methods.
“Sometimes a coach has to do that to get your players to start playing hard," said Clavell, "I didn’t mind it at all because all he was trying to do was for me to play harder.”
Current players echoed that sentiment following their double-overtime loss to Wyoming on January 31.
"I love my coach, that's all I gotta say," said sophomore guard Anthony Bonner.
"We got his back 100%. And whatever is happening is happening and we're just focused on the game," added junior guard Deion James.
Junior guard Prentiss Nixon tweeted this on Thursday:
But not everyone agrees with his coaching techniques.
Mac McDonald, a former CSU athletic trainer, is now giving voice to the other side of the story.
“I’ve worked around a lot of different coaches. Coaches can yell. Coaches can cuss. There’s all different ways you can coach and coach someone up and try to make them better, but there’s that line that all of sudden gets crossed," said McDonald, who worked directly with the men's basketball program from 2011-2016. "I think in Larry’s case, it seemed to be anger. And all of sudden it was no longer coaching. It was a personal attack because he was angry and he was not able to control himself in that situation. He kept staying angry and it just kept building and building.”
McDonald said that he was one of the 14 individuals listed in the 2013-2014 investigation into Eustachy's conduct.
That investigation was kept under wraps until February of 2017, when the Coloradoan published a lengthy article alleging that Eustachy created a “culture of fear and intimidation” by emotionally and verbally abusing his players and assistant coaches. In the 90-page report given exclusively to the publication, Eustachy's outbursts included "punching and breaking dry erase boards in locker rooms and throwing unopened soda cans against walls."
The Coloradoan's report also says that Eustachy admitted yelling at his assistant coaches to "shut the f--- up" and calling players "f-----g f-----s".
The athletic director at the time, Jack Graham, recommended to CSU President Tony Frank that Eustachy to be fired at the conclusion of the investigation. Instead, Eustachy was ordered by the university to attend anger management classes and apologize to his team. He was also given a zero-tolerance policy and was told he would be fired if he violated the terms. Graham was fired later that year.
McDonald said he left CSU in September of 2016 on good terms. University officials could not confirm these comments.
When the Coloradoan's report on the first investigation broke in February of 2017, McDonald spoke in person with athletic director Joe Parker that same month.
"The information came out about the initial investigation, the zero-tolerance policy, that was the first time I had seen what that policy entailed. I didn’t know what was in there." McDonald explained to 9News in an on-camera phone interview. "And realizing that a lot of these things were still happening, I met with Joe Parker to let him know my concerns and that these things were still happening in the program."
McDonald said Eustachy's behavior initially improved after the 2013-2014 investigation.
"He never threw stuff again, he never punched things again. But the other things that had improved began to degrade over time and you saw a return to previous habits."
McDonald recalled one instance during the 2015-16 season where Eustachy "crossed a line" after a player went down with an injury mid-practice.
“Larry had been unhappy about the way that player had performed at that moment in practice and while I was trying to conduct my evaluation he was berating the player," McDonald explained, not giving a name for the player in fear of retaliation from Eustachy.
“He said, “You are a f-----g p---y. You f-----g tell me that you want to be able to play and you pull this s--t. You are such a f-----g p---y."
McDonald added that this line of discourse continued for a "few more minutes".
"The player looked at me and he had tears in his eyes at this point. And his only question to me was, “Why does coach have to be that way?”
McDonald shared Eustachy's on-going behavior with Parker, who "indicated that he was aware of the problems" and that "they were trying to figure out what to do about it".
9NEWS reached out to university officials and left a voicemail with Parker for a chance to respond to McDonald's statements. A spokesperson confirmed that Parker is aware of these allegations but "because of the climate assessment in on-going, we are unable to comment on that."
Following McDonald's conversation with Parker last year, McDonald says the senior leadership did not do enough to prevent these problems from happening again.
"That’s why I approached Joe last year. That’s why I didn’t try to go to the press immediately last year. I wanted it to try and be handled internally to give them a chance to do what needed to be done. And it just doesn't seem like that’s happened.”
As for why more people haven't spoken out against Eustachy, McDonald put it simply-- fear.
"You have people that are working in college athletics right now who want to be able to continue to do that. You have players that want to be able to play after college and you don’t know what the outcome of an investigation is going to be. And if they come out and go on record, anything they hope for in the future could be put in jeopardy.”
When asked if McDonald would let his son play for Eustachy, McDonald gave a stern "no." As for other parents who might consider letting their son wear the green and gold under Eustachy?
"I would want them to be in that locker room at halftime or hear what's actually happening in the locker room and if it's directed at their son. Then I would want to hear that they are okay with it."