Iowa state coach Larry Eustachy's office is a leased white 2000
Lincoln Town Car with the dealer sticker still pasted to the left
rear window. The backseat is littered with yellowed newspapers,
crumpled soda cans, random sneakers and maps of various Big 12
campuses. Eustachy swears that superstition, not sloth, is what
prevents him from cleaning up this mess. Coins that fell out of
his pants pocket onto the seat two weeks ago will remain there
until the Cyclones lose another game. Likewise the keys will stay
in the ignition and the doors will stay unlocked.
When Iowa State goes on a road trip, Eustachy treats the term
literally. He has already driven 3,068 miles this season. Six
hours round-trip to Lincoln, Neb. Seven to Lawrence, Kans. Eight
to Columbia, Mo. And Stillwater, Okla.--well, that's a few exits
past forever. Eustachy has had a distaste for air travel since
enduring a rocky flight home to Idaho from the 1987 Final Four in
New Orleans. While he will fly if fortified by a healthy dose of
Valium, he has adopted a 10-hour rule, which stipulates that any
game within 10 hours one-way is driveable. He slips into baggy
sweats, kicks off his shoes and puts pedal to metal, stopping
only at convenience stores to buy water, Cokes and beef jerky.
During these journeys he lapses into a trance known to some in
the program as LarryWorld in which he obsesses over details of
his team's play. Dozens of times each trip he will pick up his
cassette recorder and tape anything from a simple command to
"Block out!" to a rambling soliloquy on how to break the Oklahoma
During the drive home from his most recent trip, from Lawrence,
the morning after a 79-77 upset of Kansas in early February, the
45-year-old Eustachy grabbed his recorder and said, "The obvious
isn't always obvious. They were supposed to beat us tonight, and
now we're supposed to beat them next week. Kansas will be
determined. Challenge our team to out-determine [the Jayhawks]."
Last Saturday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Eustachy felt
Iowa State was out-determined by Kansas in the first half, even
though the Cyclones led 37-36 at intermission. He walked into the
locker room and saw sophomore reserve forward Omar Bynum
chuckling, ordered Bynum to take off his uniform and leave the
arena and then moved his other players to another room while
Bynum changed. Iowa State (22-3 through Sunday) out-determined
Kansas in the second half for a 79-71 win to put a stranglehold
on its second straight Big 12 title and become the first team to
beat the Jayhawks under coach Roy Williams five times in a row.
The win was the sixth-ranked Cyclones' 54th since the start of
the 1999-2000 season, the most for any Division I team. Iowa
State's senior point guard Jamaal Tinsley dictated the action on
both ends with 11 assists and six steals in one of the best games
ever played by a guy who shot 1 for 13 from the field. The points
came from two freshmen, forward Shane Power and guard Jake
Sullivan, who combined for 40 points on the strength of 10-for-12
shooting from beyond the three-point arc. "Our team's strength is
that you never know who will be The Man," Tinsley says. "Coach
Eustachy's got all of us on the same page, and that's the best
kind of book."
Who's Larry Eustachy? That's the question everybody's
asking--everybody from the security guard at last year's Big 12
tournament, who forbade Eustachy from entering Kemper Arena in
Kansas City, Mo., without a credential, to administrators at
Indiana, who are rumored to covet him should Hoosiers interim
coach Mike Davis falter down the stretch, to the public address
announcers at road games who sometimes botch his name. (It's
Eustachy began his Division I coaching career in 1981 as an
unpaid assistant at Mississippi State, where after practice he
worked as a waiter in a seafood restaurant where he sometimes
served his own players. He has since made pit stops at Idaho,
Utah, Ball State, Idaho again and Utah State before arriving in
Ames in July 1998, and he has never suffered a losing season in
11 years as a head coach. Eustachy had been to Iowa only once
when he inherited the Cyclones job from Tim Floyd, and in only
his second season he won Iowa State's first regular-season
conference title in 55 years. Floyd, the Chicago Bulls coach, who
is a close friend of Eustachy's, recommended him for the job and
even sold him his house in Ames, says Eustachy's secret is that
he's not a "cookie-cutter coach."
Eustachy, who's married and the father of two children, owns only
one suit. He used to have another, but he lost the pants during
the move to Ames. For years he has coached in a black mock
turtleneck. Oh, he tried a jacket and tie during his first year
at Iowa State, but after the Cyclones finished 15-15 that season
he went back to the turtleneck. "People assume I wear black to
look like Brett Maverick riding into town," the 6'1", 200-pound
Eustachy says. "Really it's because black makes me look less fat.
I also have a red one, but it makes me look like a lobster."
Eustachy refers to his coaching philosophy as "Larry," as in All
my players have to buy into Larry. Larry the philosophy is partly
based on the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest. During
Eustachy's first season, four team members quit, and the Cyclones
practiced with only eight scholarship players. "Coach told us we
had to cut the fat and get down to the lean meat," senior forward
Martin Rancik says. "He's like a drill sergeant who tries to
break you down, and you keep going only by telling yourself,
There's no way I'm going to let this guy win."
Eustachy relates well to his players, though, thanks to his own
athletic history. He was the captain at Arcadia (Calif.) High in
1974 and then a decent junior college guard before he got cut at
Division II Chico (Calif.) State. "I've been a star and a nobody
and everything in between, so I can understand different roles,"
Eustachy says. "No matter which of my players walks in my door
with a problem, I've been that guy."
Eustachy's recruiting strategy at Iowa State began with a map, a
piece of string scaled to equal 500 miles on the map and a pin
stuck in Ames. Then the Cyclones staff phoned countless high
school coaches inside the 500-mile radius and asked about any kid
in town who could walk and chew gum at the same time. Twelve of
the 16 current Cyclones come from within that circle. Eustachy
knows that to recruit players, especially those from beyond the
Midwest, to Ames, which sits hard by the South Skunk River and in
winter is surrounded by frozen cornfields, a coach must be, as he
describes it, "creative." Consider how Tinsley ended up at Iowa
State. He grew up a Brooklyn truant, never played high school
ball, and attended Mount San Jacinto Community College in San
Jacinto, Calif. Sampling Ames on a recruiting visit on Feb. 8,
1999, Tinsley watched the Cyclones' backcourt get humiliated by
Missouri in a 77-61 defeat. "You need guards so bad," Tinsley
told Eustachy. "I'm coming here."
When Tinsley arrived at Iowa State in the fall of 1999 he
despised Eustachy's arduous preseason boot camp. Tinsley was
often dismissed from practice, literally packed his bags several
times and spent so much time on Eustachy's office couch for
psychoanalysis that the coach thought about getting Tinsley his
own pillow. But it was Tinsley's street-smart leadership that
helped transform forward Marcus Fizer into an All-America last
season, and that dynamic duo carried the Cyclones within one win
of the Final Four.
When Fizer left a year early for the NBA, Iowa State became
Tinsley's team. Tinsley channeled Larry all summer, and as a
result five Cyclones are scoring in double figures. Through
Sunday, Tinsley was 54-8 as a starter and Iowa State had a
34-game home winning streak that started the game after his
recruiting visit. Larry must have also possessed Sullivan last
Saturday night as he scored a career-high 22 points and was seen
practicing his shot alone inside Hilton Coliseum seven hours
after the game. "People thought we'd stink this year after we
lost Fizer, but we're relentless," Sullivan says. "Wouldn't it be
great if us no-names finished even better than last year's team?"
Only 1,150 miles of road trips, including the Big 12 tournament,
remain for Eustachy. Beyond that, there are no fixed destinations
until the Final Four in Minneapolis, a mere 211 miles up I-35.
That wouldn't be much more than a three-hour drive, hardly enough
time to get settled into LarryWorld.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY AL TIELEMANS DOUBLE TROUBLE Forward Paul Shirley is one of five Cyclones scoring in double figures, and he is Iowa State's top rebounder.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY AL TIELEMANS FLOOR LEADER Tinsley had an off shooting day--1 for 13--against the Jayhawks, but he chipped in with 11 assists and six steals.
"Our team's strength is that you never know who'll be The Man,"