Surrounded by his players and staff while holding onto a commemorative game ball, Larry Eustachy danced to the sound of his favorite musician, Johnny Cash. CSU's head coach was in a state of euphoria.
Eustachy's motivation? Career win no. 500.
It's been a long and winding road for Colorado State's head coach, who has taken four different schools to the NCAA Tournament and is the only coach in Division I history to win 24 or more games in a season at five different schools. Through the ups and downs and current turbulence surrounding the recent news of the ineligibility of three players, today was a reason to celebrate.
For a coach known for his tough love philosophy, it was a refreshing change of pace to see him enjoy the moment with so many of his closest colleagues and pupils.
The real question: how good were his dance moves?
"On a scale from 1-to-10, I'd give him a 3," senior Emmanuel Omogbo said with a laugh. "Well, I guess we'll go with a four."
"That was rough," Gian Clavell added of his coach's dance moves.
According to his players, Eustachy's dance moves might be lacking. But his players are glad to have a time to celebrate following a tough news week.
"I'm happy he's having a good time," Clavell said.
Clavell added that he has learned to appreciate Eustachy's coaching style during his tenure at CSU.
"His toughness. I just love his toughness and his competitiveness," Clavell said of Eustachy. "The way he coaches, teaches, just everything about him. He motivates you. It's a special day for him and I'm happy for him."
Clavell, who scored a season-high 28 points, said playing for Eustachy has taught him to learn under a tough love mentality. The win especially served well considering the surrounding circumstances of the program, Omogbo said.
"It felt good, just 'cause of everything that's been going on," Omogbo said of the win. "It was really good for him to get his 500th win and we did it as a team. We came in, got the job done, got some stops on defense, and Gian hit some great shots and we were able to pull away."
Eustachy's 500th win ended up a blow out, but it didn't start out with many believing it would end that way. The Rams got out to an 8-0 lead, but the let the Falcons go on a 15-5 run. The game was close until the Rams ended the half on a 7-0 run to lead by five at the break.
The second half was a different story. CSU hit its stride in all phases of the game, earning stop after stop on defense, while hitting big shot after big shot on the offensive end. Clavell in particular got hot, connecting for 21 of his 28 points in the final stanza. The Rams were able to get effective ball movement, while they simply hit their perimeter shots. Success there forced Air Force's defense to soften up a bit, which enabled the Rams to attack the rim and utilize all three levels on the offensive end.
Omogbo finished with his eighth double-double of the season, going for 14 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Prentiss Nixon had another big day, going for 20 points in 34 minutes of action. Anthony Bonner saw an increased role to prepare him moving forward and he didn't disappoint, going for 11 points in 22 minutes.
The win, Eustachy said, was big. It's the losses, though, that have stuck out most to him over his career.
"The only thing that matters to me is you want the respect of your peers. Tom Izzo just tweeted something out about our 500th win. That's the game that sticks out, because they played in the National Championship and we had the lead, but it just didn't work out and Michigan State went on to a cake walk in the Final Four. That was the game that sticks out," Eustachy said of his Elite 8 game loss to Michigan State in 2000.
"That's the one game that stick out. You don't remember the ones you win, you remember the losses. That's the one game where we could have won a National Championship."