Legendary Eddie Sutton Passed Away at Age 84

Zach Lancaster

STILLWATER -- Tragic news Saturday evening as legendary college basketball coach Eddie Sutton has passed away. He was 84-years old and passed less than two months after he was elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame in the class of 2020. It was first reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Our beloved dad and papa coach Eddie Sutton, age 84, passed away peacefully of natural causes on the evening of May 23 at his home in South Tulsa. He was surrounded by his three sons and their families, which include his nine adoring grandchildren. He is reunited with his No. 1 assistant, his bride Patsy Sutton, who passed away in January of 2013 after 54 years of marriage. -NewsOK

Sutton pieced together one of the best careers in the history of college basketball. During his 37-year coaching career, Sutton racked up an impressive 806 wins compared to just 328 losses, with a bulk of his wins coming at his alma mater Oklahoma State.

In fact, there are only 10 coaches throughout the history of Division I college basketball to have at least 800 wins. Sutton was the first coach to take four different teams to the NCAA tournament, as well as one of the few coaches to take two different schools to the Final Four.

During his career, Eddie Sutton was a two-time AP College Coach of the Year, 1978 and 1986, and was the NABC Coach of the Year in 1986. He was also the Southwest Conference Coach of the Year four times (1975, '77, '79 and '81), the SEC Coach of the Year in '86, the Big Eight Coach of the Year in '93 and the Big 12 Coach of the Year in '98.

Sutton was also inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011

He began that career in 1967 as he founded the basketball program at the College of Southern Idaho and posted a 33-4 record in the first season. He was quickly hired as the head coach at Creighton and took the Bluejays to the 1974 NCAA tournament, the first appearance of his coaching career.

He would then spend the next 11 years in Fayetteville as the head coach of Arkansas where he amassed an impressive 260-75 record, including five Southwest Conference championships, nine appearances in the NCAA tournament, including a trip to the Final Four early in his tenure there in 1978.

After tremendous success at Arkansas, Sutton was hired by Kentucky where he spent the next four seasons. He led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in the 1986 NCAA tournament, as well as winning Kentucky’s 37th SEC title, but that title was vacated, as well as several wins when the NCAA found several violations within the program.

Many people believed the violations against Sutton at Kentucky were the very reason that Sutton was kept out of the Naismith Hall of Fame for as long as he was, even with one of the best coaching resumes in college basketball history.

Then came redemption.

Sutton took over the Oklahoma State basketball program in 1990, a program that had struggled for multiple years prior to Sutton’s return to his alma mater.

In four short years, Sutton had turned the program around and had the Pokes rolling once again. He took them the NCAA tournament in 1991, ending a near 10-year tournament drought.

Fast forward to the 1994-95 season and Sutton took one of the best teams in the country, led by Randy Rutherford and Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves, to the Final Four. The Cowboys fell short to the eventual champions, UCLA, 74-61, who’d go on to beat Sutton’s former team, Arkansas, 89-78.

But Sutton’s Cowboys weren’t done there.

During his time as head coach, he led the Pokes to an impressive 13 NCAA tournament bids, two Final Four appearances, three regular season conference championships and three conference tournament championships.

Shortly before the end of his time in Stillwater, Sutton was honored by Oklahoma State University as they official renamed the white maple hardwood in Gallagher-Iba Arena to Eddie Sutton Court. It was special as it was the same court that Sutton played on for Mr. Iba and then later coached his teams.

He’d finish his career at Oklahoma State with an impressive 368-161 record, second only behind legendary coach Henry Iba, Sutton’s mentor and college coach at Oklahoma A&M.

Sutton also had to deal with a tremendous tragedy during the 2000-01 season. On January 27, as the Cowboys were leaving a road game at Colorado, one of the two team planes, carrying two players, six staff members and two pilots, crashed in a field east of Boulder and Denver, CO.

They are Kendall Durfey (radio engineer), Bjorn Fahlstrom (co-pilot), Nate Fleming (Cowboys player), Will Hancock (athletic media relations for basketball), Daniel Lawson (Cowboys player), Brian Luinstra (athletic trainer), Denver Mills (pilot), Pat Noyes (basketball operations director), Bill Teegins (play-by-play radio announcer) and Jared Weiberg (basketball manager).

Sutton would also deal with another controversy as he had a relapse in February of 2006 with his fight against alcoholism. He was involved in a car accident and was charged with aggravated driving under the influence, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. Following the accident, he pleaded no contest, received a one-year deferred sentence and was ordered to pay a fine.

Following the season, Sutton resigned as head coach and his son, Sean Sutton, took over as head coach of the program.

Sutton will always be remembered as a beloved figure of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma State basketball, not just for his contributions on the court, but off it as well. His old school charms will forever be remembered in the handwritten notes he’d write to players and coaches around the league, as well as residents of Stillwater he’d read about in the local papers.

He comes from the coaching tree of Henry Iba, but there’s no doubt that Sutton grew one of the largest branches on that tree. Current Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton, while he wasn’t under Sutton at any time, brought back Sutton’s tough defensive-minded style of play and even honors the former coach with the Cowboys’ practice shorts that have the word DEFENSE printed across the seat.

Sutton's legacy has outlived his coaching career at Oklahoma State and now his life. New generations of Oklahoma State fans have learned of his importance, in many cases from their parents. In other cases, by the relentless drive of his players and so many admirers to get him in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. You can feel it in Stillwater and on the Oklahoma State campus. Eddie Sutton's accomplishments and his persona will live forever in the arena he coached in and was primarily responsible for being more than doubled in capacity.  

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

RIP Coach Sutton....Prayers for the family for peace and remembering good times together. I had several conversations with Coach over the years and he was very nice.