Eddie Sutton, the former college basketball coach at Oklahoma State and Kentucky, passed away at 84. Sutton earned a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2020, and will eventually be posthumously inducted into Springfield alongside Kobe Bryant.
Sutton (806-326) won more than 800 games as a head coach. Only eight other Division I men’s basketball coaches have reached that milestone. He only posted two losing seasons over his lengthy career.
Sutton got his first head coaching gig at Southern Idaho in 1966. He also coached at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, and San Francisco.
Sutton spent 16 seasons with Oklahoma State, where he also played as a member of the Cowboys in the late 1950s. Sutton roamed the sidelines in Stillwater starting in 1990 until he resigned in 2006.
The AP named Sutton its college basketball Coach of the Year in 1978 and again in 1986. He earned his first Coach of the Year award with Arkansas in the late 1970s. He coached at Kentucky for four seasons and won the Coach of the Year with Kentucky in 1986.
Sutton also guided four schools — Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma State — to berths in March Madness. He reached the Final Four three times in three different decades and led Arkansas (32-4) to a Final Four in 1978. He took Oklahoma State to the Final Four twice in 1994 and again in 2004.
In 2011, Sutton earned a spot in the College Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2020, he earned a well-deserved spot in Springfield as a member of the Class of 2020 for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sutton in Kentucky
Sutton replaced Joe B. Hall at Kentucky in 1985. Just the year before, Hall took Kentucky to the Final Four. But in 1985, Kentucky suffered its worst season in a decade (and they still won 18 games and finished five games over .500).
Sutton earned his reputation as an excellent coach with Arkansas, even though they lost recruits to the elite of the SEC. Arkansas still won 20-plus games every season. In his last year at Arkansas, the Razorbacks upset #1 a North Carolina team that included Michael Jordan.
In his first season at Kentucky, Sutton went 32-4. The Wildcats lost in the Elite Eight in the 1986 March Madness. After that, things went south quickly in Lexington due to ineligible players and recruiting scandals. After a 13-19 season, Kentucky fired Sutton in 1989.
“Eddie Sutton had a HOF career and touched many lives, including mine,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “He was always kind to me and my family when I was a young coach, and we’ve stayed in touch throughout his life. He’s going to be missed. RIP, my friend. He and his family are in my prayers.”
“Eddie Sutton was a fascinating and complicated person,” tweeted former Kentucky player, Rex Chapman. “He also was an unbelievable teacher of the game of basketball. I was fortunate and lucky to have learned from him. Grateful.”
Eddie Sutton was a fascinating and complicated person. He also was an unbelievable teacher of the game of basketball. I was fortunate and lucky to have learned from him. Grateful.
Hall. Of. Famer.
Thanks, Coach Ed.
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) May 24, 2020
Back to Stillwater
In 1990, Sutton returned to coach his alma mater, Oklahoma State — a homecoming 30 years in the making. He played point guard with Oklahoma State between 1955 and 1958. He joined the coaching staff after graduation for a season, before accepting a head coaching job at a high school in Tulsa.
In his first season back at Oklahoma State, they won the Big Eight title and Sutton took the Cowboys to the Elite 8.
With Big Country (aka Bryant Reeves), Oklahoma State went to the Final Four in 1995. That marked the Cowboys’ first trip back to the Final Four since 1951. Sutton took the Cowboys back to the Final Four again at March Madness in 2004.
Sutton’s career ended prematurely in 2006 after he was cited for drunk driving following a fender bender. Sutton, who spent a short stint in Betty Ford Clinic in the 1980s, returned to treatment.
Sutton retired and his son, Sean, took over as head coach. Sean played for his father at Kentucky and at Oklahoma State, before joining him as an assistant coach in 1993.