CSU’s men’s basketball team returned to practice Friday to prepare for a home game Saturday against San Jose State, a school spokesman said.
The Rams had boycotted practice Thursday for reasons that were not immediately clear.
Some people close to the program said the boycott was in support of coach Larry Eustachy, who was placed on administrative leave last Saturday while the university investigates claims that he has continued to verbally and emotionally abuse players and staff members despite a “zero-tolerance” policy that he had promised to adhere to after a similar investigation during the 2013-14 season.
Other sources said the players were refusing to practice because associate head coach Steve Barnes, who multiple sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have said is “as bad” or “worse” than Eustachy, his close friend and boss for 22 of the past 27 seasons.
And others said players were refusing to practice because they were tired of reading about what was going on in with their coach and program in the media rather than from athletic director Joe Parker or other university administrators.
Players and coaches in the program have not been made available to the media since a loss Tuesday night at Air Force, after which Barnes said the team would take Wednesday off and practice Thursday “if I’m still the coach.”
Barnes ran Friday’s practice, athletic department spokesman Paul Kirk said.
Parker, deputy athletic director Steve Cottingham and NCAA compliance director Shalini Shanker were conducting individual interviews with players and members of the men’s basketball staff last week as part of a “climate assessment” of the program, Parker said.
Thursday night, the athletic director said he would meet with the men’s basketball team “to update them on the situation.”
In that statement, Parker said he has not yet been able to complete that assessment because he had not yet had the opportunity to talk to Eustachy and his representatives. That meeting, Parker said, won’t take place “until early next week.”
Parker and other school officials have otherwise declined comment on the assessment until it is complete.
Background: CSU places basketball coach Larry Eustachy on administrative leave
Eustachy, 62, was in his sixth season as CSU’s coach when he was placed on leave hours before a home game last Saturday against Nevada. Barnes, 60, coached the Rams (10-16, 3-10 Mountain West) in that game and Tuesday night against Air Force. CSU lost both, extending its longest losing streak since 2009 to seven straight games.
Eustachy remains tied with Stew Morrill for the second-most wins ever by a CSU men’s basketball coach with 121 victories. His CSU teams had lost 74 games prior to his suspension. Eustachy’s overall record as an NCAA Division I coach is 523-332 in 27 seasons. He coached at Idaho, Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Mississippi before coming to CSU.
The coach’s contract, which he has chosen to extend three times since it was originally signed in July 2013, runs through the 2020-21 season and guarantees him nearly $3 million dollars – this year’s $985,012 salary times three – if he is fired without cause before June 30. The buyout is reduced to two years at next year’s salary of just more than $1 million after June 30.
Next up: San Jose State at CSU, 2 p.m. Saturday, Moby Arena
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Opinion: Financial settlement sticking point between CSU and Larry Eustachy