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Alabama football coach Mike Price and Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy are supposed to be grown-ups, although you have to wonder, given the escapades that have made them the butt of jokes across the country.

The 47-year-old Eustachy partied hard with students at Missouri and Kansas State after losses last season, and photos have showed him holding cans of Natural Light beer and kissing girls on the cheek. The Iowa State athletic director has recommended that Eustachy be fired.

Price, 57, was axed Saturday before even coaching his first game at Alabama. While attending a golf tournament in Pensacola, Fla., Price reportedly spent $200 on a topless-bar dancer named "Destiny." The next day, while he golfed, an unidentified woman in Price's motel room called room service and ordered more than $1,000 in food and drink.

Such "Coaches Gone Wild" behavior might've drawn winks in another time and place. That's not necessarily true for today's celebrity coaches. Sadly, they're lavished with seven-figure salaries for their ability to recruit and mold talent, rather than shape character. But they're also the public face of their universities - even their states.

The way Price and Eustachy have imploded is mind boggling; almost too ridiculous to believe. Think of them, then consider some of the all-time greats.

(Lie back, close your eyes, and imagine Š)

Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant slips on a pair aviator shades and strolls into a strip club, then orders a double shot of bourbon and winks at "Destiny," a thirtyish blonde gyrating around a pole.

"Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby," growls Bryant, snapping his fingers and rocking his head to K.C. & the Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight."

Destiny smiles. The craggy-faced Bryant smiles back, licks his lips, then slicks down a silver cowlick with a liver-spotted hand. Destiny shimmies over and crouches on her spiked heels in front of the coaching icon, then snatches up Bryant's trademark houndstooth hat and does a dance with it on the bar.

(Still imagining?)

Bryant tosses back another whisky.

"Come heah, you cute thang," Bryant gruffly implores.

Destiny, wearing the hat, saunters over and kneels in front of Bryant, while the coaching icon fumbles for his wallet, pulls out a couple of $50 bills and clumsily stuffs them into her thong.

"Hey, darlin'," the coaching king growls softly. "How about some personal coaching?"

Bryant winks one more time.

"Just call me B-A-R-E."

(Meanwhile, that same night at a fraternity house in Corvallis, Ore., Š)

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden knocks back another "Natty" Light and giggles as the foam spills over his lips and dribbles down the front of his black turtleneck.

"Whoops," chirps the coaching genius, wrapping an arm around a sassy brunette and planting her with a big, sloppy smooch.

Wooden grabs another beer and cruises the crowded room.

"Not bad," the coaching icon whispers when asked to rate the OSU sorority sisters. "But frankly, they can't stack up to those hotties at Missouri."

A few minutes later, Wooden grabs his stomach.

"Dad gummit," Wooden grumps, propped up by a couple of stout lads. "I need to worship the porcelain goddess."

One boy smirks.

"You know what I mean," bellows the legendary coach, lurching toward the bathroom. "I need to talk to Earl on the big white telephone. NOW."

(OK, you can open your eyes.)

Ridiculous isn't it?

Yeah, maybe Woody Hayes, Joe Paterno and Eddie Robinson danced with destiny in their time. Maybe Dean Smith, John Thompson and Mike Krzyzewski partied with frat boys. Maybe. But at least you could believe the myth; you could believe they were leaders of men.

Just for the record, Price and Eustachy began their coaching climbs in the Big Sky, at Weber State and Idaho, respectively. It's very possible that both are feeling downright nostalgic for those wild Karaoke Nights at the Spokane Days Inn.

Rial Cummings can be reached at 523-5255 or rcummings@missoulian.com

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