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Friday, May 27, 2011
Larry Shyatt no fan of coaching 'sellouts'

By Eamonn Brennan

On April 26, ESPN's Andy Katz touched base with recently hired Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt. Shyatt had just taken the job in frigid Laramie, Wyo., after seven years as Billy Donovan's top assistant at Florida, one of the most high-profile programs in the country. Needless to say, the move provoked curiosity. As Andy wrote, who moves from Gainesville to Laramie? And why?

For Shyatt, the response was simple: He liked the program. He didn't mind the weather. More than anything, he felt he owed it to Wyoming, where he earned his first head-coaching gig in 1997-98 but bolted for Clemson after just one season.
"I didn't like the way I left the first time," Shyatt told Katz at the time. "It was the right thing for my children. They wanted to go to Clemson. I wouldn't have changed it. But I can't say I felt good about it."

If a recent interview in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle is any indication (hat tip: Eric Angevine), those aren't the only reasons Shyatt made his prodigal return. He also seems disillusioned with the state of big-time modern coaching and recruiting. Shyatt even goes so far as to decry the "sellouts" at that level of coaching, saying that "most of the people I admired most in my career I don't really admire anymore." To wit:
"Coaches are under a great deal of pressure to make a couple of key decisions. One, do I go after the most amount of talent that the eyes tell me and maybe look the other way in terms of either academics or value system? Or do I try to get a better combination?

As much as I want to win and as much as I distaste losing, I can assure you I'm not going to look the other way. That's not a direction I'm comfortable with. Early in my career I was confronted with some of those decisions. It's a lot easier now for me."

Gagliardi: Why is that easier for you now?

"I would say it's mostly been me. It's mostly been my distaste for the BCS-level basketball world.

Most of the people I admired most in my career I don't really admire anymore. (F)or the analysts or the writers or the public or our wives, sometimes, they have a warm, fuzzy feeling for some people that if they knew what I knew, they wouldn't have such a warm, fuzzy feeling. It's disappointing. I'm one of the few basketball dinosaurs. I love the profession. It hurts me to see at that level the sellouts in that regard."

Shyatt doesn't name names, though he does provide a list of coaches he continues to admire, and his former colleagues at Florida (Donovan, former assistant and current Alabama coach Anthony Grant) are among them.

In other words, there's no big discovery to be made here, no coaching catfight to uncover and gossip about. More than anything, Shyatt seems enamored with "the profession" but dog-tired of the ethical gray areas that can so easily come with it. He seems sick of the preening, designer-suit clad coaching archetype. He wants to coach, and he wants to win, but he doesn't want to do the things college hoops coaches so often do -- whether legal or not -- to make those things happen.

Instead, he packed his bags and headed back to Wyoming. That move was, as we now know, made not only to repay the Cowboys for giving him his first big shot. It was also an escape from the college hoops rat race. It's hard not to admire Shyatt for that.