Eustachy finds warm welcome

Tommy Birch

He may coach for Southern Miss, but Iowa State will always be home to Larry Eustachy. Eustachy, who coached the Cyclones for five seasons, returned to Hilton Coliseum last Saturday for the first time since being fired in 2003.

“This will always be my place,” Eustachy said before coaching in the ISU Hilton Magic All-Star Celebrity Game. “I had a lot of good times here. That’s all I think about.”

Dressed in a buttoned-up black shirt, Eustachy was a long way away from his coaching days filled with black turtlenecks. After guiding Iowa State to consecutive Big 12 titles in 2000 and 2001, Eustachy was fired after pictures of him drinking with college students were published in The Des Moines Register. Besides a change in wardrobe, he says he’s now been sober for more than four years.

“I’ve never been better,” he said. “My life has changed for the good in a lot of ways.”

Although the celebrity game was Eustachy’s first step inside Hilton since his days as a Cyclone, he said he still travels to Ames frequently to visit his sons who live with his ex-wife. After catching up with ISU alumnus Fred Hoiberg in Las Vegas, he said it didn’t take long for his former player to convince him to make a return to his old bench for the event.

“I was excited to come here,” he said. “It was the perfect opportunity.”

It was also an opportunity for many fans to honor one of the greatest coaches in ISU history.

Eustachy, who compiled a 101-59 record while with the Cyclones, earned a standing ovation from the 4,000 fans in attendance.

“People realize the hard work he put in the job when he was here,” Hoiberg said. “It was great to see him get that type of support coming back here.”

Since arriving at Southern Miss, Eustachy has led the Golden Eagles to a 41-49 record in three seasons. His success in the south recently earned him a two-year contract extension that will keep him there until the 2010-2011 season. Despite how his time in Ames ended, he says he has no resentment or regret.

“I wouldn’t change a thing how my life has gone,” he said. “My life has been very blessed.”