Gottlieb: "He (Sutton) just had this way of commanding everyone's respect in the room."
STILLWATER -- You may not realize it but Doug Gottlieb is 11th all-time on the NCAA list with his combined assists at Oklahoma State and his freshman season at Notre Dame. Gottlieb's father had been an assistant coach for Eddie Sutton when Sutton was at Creighton. When his son needed a new home to put together his basketball career and reputation, Bob Gottlieb pointed Doug toward Stillwater.
"I got in late for a visit that started on Tuesday and went to bed, woke up and got a whiff of the swine barn across the street," Gottlieb said of his visit. "Coach Sutton gave me a tour of campus and then I watched Oklahoma State beat Texas A&M. It was kind of uneventful game, but they won. He told me how it was going to go if I came there, and I believed him. He was right, it went exactly how he said it would.
Gottlieb grew to love Oklahoma State, met his wife there, started his broadcasting career there. Not only trusted, but grew to love the coach that was hard on him there, but helped turn Gottlieb into the man he is today.
In fact, in a radio interview with Triple Play Sports Radio on Tuesday, Gottlieb said his great regret was not staying in Stillwater the two summers in college that he left and went back to California.
"My son was having trouble sleeping last night and I was telling him my regret was not staying in Stillwater for those two summers," Gottlieb was telling the story. He asked me, 'why.' I told him, 'because it was great there.' You had your buds. You could work out, the apartment was paid for, and you got great food. I should have stayed."
Gottlieb was one of the all-time best floor leaders and directors on the court in Oklahoma State hoops history. He's also one of the most vocal. Sutton, as he did with many players, broke Gottlieb down, but he built him back into one of the best passers and basketball IQ floor leaders ever seen by these eyes.
Gottlieb said it amazed him that Coach Sutton wouldn't coach at the beginning of practice. He would sit in the stands and take notes with his meticulous and very neat penmanship. Micah, Oklahoma State's special fan would sit there and work him over. Micah is know for having his opinions, especially on Oklahoma State basketball.
"I remember him pulling me aside after my first week of practicing for him and he said, 'we need to get you going a little more to your right.' I was like what do you mean? 'I know you like to go left,' he said. And I was like, 'you picked that up, did you?' It was just subtle things that he would know. He wanted to know what shots guys liked and he was that way. He could push you to the best you that you could be."
Gottlieb said even past his basketball career and into his broadcasting he would get occasional critiques and advise from Coach Sutton. It is a relationship that Coach Sutton never quits being your coach.
"He had a way, you know everybody in Stillwater knows it and would have loved to play for him," Gottlieb started. "He just had this way of commanding everyone's respect in the room. He could get everyone in the rooms attention. That is the way he was as a coach."
Gottlieb believes Sutton can still do that. He can't speak as he has lost his ability to communicate that way, but Gottlieb can still feel his old coach's presence when he sees him. All these years Gottlieb has take virtually every opportunity to push Sutton's inclusion in the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. He said when he heard that the Suttons got the phone call last Friday in Tulsa.
"It's not perfect, perfect would have been 10 years ago, but I cried like a baby because I was so happy for him and all of us," Gottlieb admitted to the tears. "We've all known he was a hall of fame coach, and now he's in the Hall of Fame. That's where I get chills now that my basketball family is in the Hall of Fame. That's really cool."
It is and whether he takes any credit or not, it's really cool to know that point guard from SoCal by way of Notre Dame was one of the loudest voices pushing for it when the coach himself had no voice left. But as Doug says, Coach Sutton still has that presence.