Larry Eustachy understands redemption

August, 18, 2010
08/18/10
3:28
PM ET

Louisville coach Rick Pitino was humiliated by his testimony in a Louisville court room during the trial of a woman who was accused of trying to extort millions of dollars from him.

The woman, Karen Cunagin Sypher, was found guilty on all six counts she was charged with and faces sentencing this fall.

But when the Cardinals play on the road this season, Pitino will likely still be razzed by opposing fans about the matter.

Few college basketball coaches know what it's like to be embarrassed and then have it thrown back in their face more than Southern Miss' Larry Eustachy.

Eustachy was forced to resign from Iowa State in May 2003 after reports surfaced in a local newspaper that he was seen drinking and hanging around co-eds at parties at Kansas State and Missouri after Iowa State road games, including a photo of him at a party at Missouri.

Eustachy said he didn't have the type of support at Iowa State under former athletic director Bruce Van De Velde that Pitino has under Tom Jurich, who has been steadfast in his support for Pitino since news of the extramarital affair and subsequent extortion attempt became public in the past year.

"If I'd talk to Rick, I would tell him, 'Don't worry about tomorrow, or worry about yesterday, only about today,'" Eustachy said. "The administration is the biggest difference. I had an athletic director who put his finger in the wind and said, 'Let's get rid of Larry.' Tom Jurich is as good as they come. The difference is the administration."

Eustachy said time will heal everything for Pitino.

"Time has taken care of it for me," Eustachy said. "There are very few signs anymore. It's gone. We've moved on."

Eustachy admitted to being an alcoholic, received treatment, and after a year out of the business landed in 2004 at Southern Miss, where he is about to start his seventh season. The Golden Eagles have their best chance to reach the NCAA tournament under him due to the return of leading scorers Gary Flowers and USC transfer Angelo Johnson.

Eustachy said he dealt with signs at opposing arenas taunting him about the issues in his personal life when he returned to coaching. He said signs at Rice and UAB were probably the worst in Conference USA.

"Those guys were clever," Eustachy said. "As a coach, you see brutal signs. When I walked into Missouri or Kansas you would get that but it was personal. I was comfortable in my skin that year off and I'm comfortable with who I was and blocked it out … . I couldn't do that in the past."

Eustachy said he has been sober for seven years and four months.

"I didn't realize I had an issue and it's called alcoholism," Eustachy said. "I had to reinvent myself. I didn't know how deadly this thing is. The past seven years and four months have been the best time in my life even though I lost a $12 million contract, a divorce, etc. It's a different way of life and I'm grateful to what has happened to me."

Southern Miss finished 20-14 last season, 8-8 in C-USA. A number of C-USA coaches told ESPN.com they expect the Golden Eagles to be a contender with Memphis for the league title.

Eustachy had a revolving door of players early in his tenure. He struggled to win in his first two years but was above .500 in the league before a dip down to 4-12 in the 2008-09 season.

"We have the best players now," Eustachy said. "Right after we moved here we had a used trailer for over two years with an old toilet. We now have a $12 million addition to the arena and state-of-the-art stuff. We don't get Angelo Johnson from USC if we still have the trailer."

Eustachy said Flowers is one of the most talented players he's ever coached and that includes Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley, players he coached at Iowa State who went on to play in the NBA.

"I think we have a chance to compete for our league championships, I really mean that," Eustachy said. "We're there. We're close."

The Golden Eagles return their top eight players and play in the Cancun Governor's Cup on ESPN's family of networks this season. They could tussle with Ole Miss for the championship if they can get past Saint Louis. Games at Ole Miss along with visits to South Florida and Cal should prepare Southern Miss for a run at the C-USA title.

"Resentment is a terrible quality a person can have," Eustachy said. "You have to move on. I wouldn't change a thing."

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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