LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Larry Eustachy owns the room.
And if you don’t think so, he doesn’t really care.
Never mind the large white card with his name on it sitting on a table in front of a large 15-foot tall backdrop with large green and gold Colorado State and Mountain West Conference logos on it. In between sucking back Diet Cokes and taking drags on an E-cig, the CSU men’s basketball coach jovially bounced around conference room No. 2 of the Las Vegas Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday during the final session of the league’s media days joking with reporters and fellow coaches about anything, and everything, that popped in his head.
“His team is (expletive) loaded,” he told reporters interviewing first-year Nevada coach Eric Musselman before walking back toward his assigned table.
Asked about his team’s spot in the preseason media poll – the Rams were picked seventh – Eustachy was optimistic.
“I don’t know how good we’ll be,” he said, “but we’re a lot better than seventh. I know that.”
While being told about some players in the league commenting on his fashion choice of wearing all black during games, he pointed out the green CSU polo shirt he was wearing was hastily picked up at a Macy’s on the way out of Fort Collins on Tuesday and then turned the attention to the large Rolex watch on the left wrist of Boise State coach Leon Rice, who was 15 feet away in the middle of an interview.
“Hey, I’m trying to take this seriously here,” Rice fired back, grinning while being interviewed about how the defending co-champion Broncos have two preseason All-Conference players in James Webb III and Anthony Drmic.
As for his players, Eustachy has plenty of optimism, too.
Of forward Tiel Daniels, the coach is certain nobody will guard better in the post. Of 6-foot guard John Gillon, “there’s not a better point guard in the league. I don’t give a (expletive). I really just don’t care. I mean nobody can stay in front of him.”
COACHING NOODLES: While UNM head coach Craig Neal is well known in basketball circles, very few of his coaching peers can claim the connection Musselman can: He coached Noodles.
Musselman coached the 6-foot-5 point guard with the Rapid City (S.D.) Thrillers in the CBA during the 1989-90 season.
“He was very fun to watch,” Musselman said. “High energy. High enthusiasm. He was entertaining and was a hell of a player. He really was.”
Musselman said Neal’s on-court persona was something fans loved to watch.
“Craig was just really flamboyant,” Musselman said. “He was a favorite at Rapid City. People would come to see him play. At that time, he was one of the few guys that played the point at his size.”
HE SAID IT: San Diego State senior forward Winston Shepard had high praise for UNM coach Craig Neal, who recruited him to play for the Lobos. Shepard also had some high praise for his uncle and one of UNM’s all-time greats, Marvin “Automatic” Johnson.
“You should see it,” Shepard told a group of reporters, many of whom hadn’t heard of Johnson. “This guy’s got a jumper that I didn’t get.”
THE NUMBERS: Preseason polls, which for the MWC were released on Tuesday morning, are always easy fodder for criticism with most fans and coaches not happy with their team’s selection, often accusing the media of underestimating their team.
But is that true?
In the first 16 years of MWC existence, the preseason media poll picked the eventual champion or co-champion eight times (50 percent) in what has ranged from an eight- to 11-team league.
The largest drop for a preseason favorite to its final spot in the standings was in the 2008-09 season, when UNLV fell from preseason No. 1 to No. 5. The biggest jump for an eventual champion was 2003-04 when Air Force was selected last (eighth) and won the league’s regular-season title. No other eventual champion was predicted in the preseason lower than fifth.
For UNM, the league’s media members have picked the Lobos’ finish accurately four times (25 percent), too high six times (37.5 percent), and too low six times (37.5 percent).
UNM was selected sixth in this year’s poll, the first time the Lobos ever landed in that spot in the preseason poll.
SWEATER TIME: As he does during every Cowboys game, Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt was wearing his trademark gold sweater at Wednesday’s media session.
So the former Clemson head coach and longtime UNM assistant in the 1980s was asked for an explanation behind the fashion statement.
“I was the only ACC head coach to never have a suit, nor would I,” Shyatt said. “I picketed. … I would rather spend money on my family, and I was soaked (in sweat) by halftime, anyway. So I always told (Wyoming athletic director) Tom Burman once we sign that new contract, we’re going sweaters.”
Shyatt signed a new five-year contract extension this past offseason and, while it’s not written into the deal, he can report he now has six gold sweaters in his closet and two brown ones.
WHO? When ROOT Sports asked San Diego State’s Skylar Spencer who would play his coach, Steve Fisher, in a movie, the senior center’s answer was, well, interesting.
So much so, in fact, that when Fisher heard the answer, he later interrupted an interview Spencer was doing with reporters and asked his player loudly, “Johnny Depp?!”
Spencer said he panicked with the response when put on the spot in front of television cameras, then almost inexplicably offered up, “I meant to say Will Smith.”