Eddie Sutton, the Hall of Fame basketball coach who led three teams to the Final Four and was the first coach to take four schools to the NCAA tournament, died on Saturday. He was 84 years old.
Sutton’s family said in a statement that he died of natural causes at home in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, surrounded by his three sons and their families. Patsy’s wife died in 2013.
“Mom and dad treated their players like family and always shared the belief that his teachings went beyond the basketball court,” wrote the family. “He cherished the time he spent in each school and appreciated the support of their loyal fans. He believed that merit deserved so much credit for the success of its programs. “
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Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on April 3, Sutton has been 806-328 in 37 seasons as Division I head coach – not counting lost wins or lost games – and has reached 25 NCAA tournaments.
Sutton has had a career decorated with mixed controversy. Sutton led the Final Four teams in Arkansas in 1978 and in Oklahoma State in 1995 and 2004. He took Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State to the NCAA tournament. He was Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1978 in Arkansas and in 1986 in Kentucky.
He was not a finalist in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame six times before being finally selected. He said he thought a scandal that ended his stay in Kentucky was probably the culprit of his long wait. The NCAA announced 18 allegations against the program in 1988, and he resigned in 1989.
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His retirement in Oklahoma State in 2006 came about three months after he took sick leave following a traffic accident that resulted in charges of aggravated DUI, excessive speed and driving. wrong side of the road. He did not plead the charges in any way, was sentenced to a one-year deferred sentence and was fined.
Through it all, he remained very popular in the state of Oklahoma, often attending games while confined to a wheelchair. He would receive loud applause as the camera turned towards him and Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” played on the audio system.
Sutton was born in Bucklin, Kansas in 1936. He played in Oklahoma State under Hall of Fame coach Henry Iba, then stayed there to begin his coaching career as an assistant coach with Iba in 1958.
Sutton obtained his first Division I head coaching position in Creighton. He led the Bluejays to an 82-50 mark in five seasons from 1969 to 1974.
He succeeded Arkansas in 1975, and the Razorbacks ranked 17-9 and 19-9 before starting a nine-season streak of 20 wins. He finished his race in Fayetteville nine times in a row at the NCAA basketball tournament. His 1978 Final Four team included versatile stars Sidney Moncrief, Marvin Delph and Ron Brewer.
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Sutton moved and replaced Joe B. Hall in Kentucky in 1985. While there, he compiled a 90-40 record, including two Southeast Conference titles. But he dropped in the end, and his program underwent a scrutiny by the NCAA.
He ran Oklahoma State from 1991 to 2006. The Cowboys reached Sweet Sixteen in their first two seasons as head coach. In 1995, Bryant Reeves and Randy Rutherford led the Cowboys to the 1995 NCAA Final Four. The Cowboys returned to the Final Four in 2004, with Tony Allen and Joey Graham leading the way.
Sutton’s last coaching relay was in 2007-08 as an interim coach in San Francisco, where he won his 800th victory.