Pokes Report Group Review of "Eddie"

Pokes Report Staff

STILLWATER -- The long awaited debut of "Eddie" the documentary on Oklahoma State Hall-of-Fame head coach Eddie Sutton took place on Monday, June 29 at 8 p.m. The project directed by Christopher Hunt and produced by 1577 Productions took four-years and is a "tell all".

Here are the opinions of the Pokes Report staff on "Eddie" the Documentary.

Robert Allen

I know this, I needed the last five minutes of the documentary or I might have really been down. It certainly was real as Eddie Sutton's life was some great basketball moments interspersed by public and personal tragedy. The documentary also left me wanting to give Sean Sutton a huge hug. I connected with Sean during my days as a reporter for Channel 4-KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. I knew how much Sean looked up to and really kind of worshiped his dad. Now, to see things that I didn't know then. The things that Sean went through in Kentucky and coming to Oklahoma State. The life that sometimes happened off the court and in the home makes me really respect Sean so much. Eddie Sutton was strong, but Sean was as strong or stronger. I've always said how proud I am of Sean for overcoming his addiction and I'm so happy for where Sean is today. 

The telling of the story was thorough and the archive retrieval by the folks at 1577 Productions headed by Christopher Hunt was excellent. The Arkansas footage was outstanding. So was Kentucky, although that chapter is tough to watch for somebody that loved dealing with Coach Sutton. Kentucky is an NBA and pro atmosphere with fans and media even though it is a college program. 

Oklahoma State had to be a real happy place for the entire Sutton family after what they'd been through. As an Oklahoma State alum and member of the media that covered that era, I really wish there had been more time spent on the time between Eddie Sutton's arrival at Oklahoma State and the plane crash in 2001. A mention of Steve Buzzard would have been nice. I think Steve was a key player in helping Coach Sutton during the plane crash period. 

It was well done. It was not polished up to make Eddie Sutton a coaching God. It was done in real life to make Eddie Sutton a man that was good deep down and had a lot of positive influences on people, but was flawed and at times, couldn't influence himself the way that I'm sure he wished he could have. 

I thought Sean Sutton was incredible in telling the stories as was his wife, Trena. I thought that Doug Gottlieb, Andre Williams, and Rex Chapman were very compelling. I was told later that right before the filming of the interviews, Chapman called Sean Sutton and asked how real he should keep it. Sean told him to be brutally honest. That is the way the Sutton family wanted the story told, totally realistic. No punches pulled in the way the documentary was done.

I give it up to Doug Gottlieb because he is a strong communicator. Tom Dirato balances the documentary as Dirato was a friend and really looked up to Sutton and keeps it that way. It was good for balance. 

I really wish we could have heard from Patsy Sutton, but I know what Patsy would have said. It would have been all good about her boys from Eddie, Steve, Sean, and Scott. 

For those that haven't seen it, be prepared, if you love to chant "Eddie, Eddie," you may still do it, but you will carry some different thoughts in your mind when you do.

John Helsley

Kentucky looms as one of those special basketball jobs.

So it’s understanding why Eddie Sutton would say he’d crawl all the way to Lexington, as he did, infamously, in leaving Arkansas.

Kentucky was so good for so many.

Yet it was so bad for Eddie.

And in turn, that was so, so good for Oklahoma State.

If the third leg of Sutton’s Division I basketball journey had gone better – and it wasn’t so much the results on the court that were troubling, as much as the scandals that hovered around it – he wouldn’t have been there available for OSU to pull home. And who knows where the school would have turned to replace Leonard Hamilton, who had left for Miami, albeit after posting a losing record as Cowboys coach.

But the junk that swirled all about Eddie and Sean Sutton at Kentucky, while never connecting either to any wrongdoing, forced Eddie them out of Lexington, and brought them to Stillwater.

Watching the “Eddie” documentary on ESPN Monday night, which was tough and touching all at the same time, I was taken by just how brutal Coach’s years at Kentucky played out. His teams were successful, going 88-39 with two conference titles and three NCAA Tournament berths in four years.

But Sutton faced questions about carryover recruiting improprieties before he ever coached the Wildcats in a game. Fans were disgruntled that their squad weren’t even better under Sutton (that’s the bar of success at a place like Kentucky). He battled alcohol addiction early in his stay there – Rex Chapman said Eddie was “drunk most of my freshman year.” Then NCAA irregularities hounded the team and Sutton, although none were officially pinned on him.

All that took a toll on Sutton, including off the court.

“It was much worse at home,” Sean said. “My mom and I got the worst of it. He never raised his hand to anybody, but his words, the things he said – because of his drinking – were hurtful.”

Eddie went through rehab and quit drinking, regaining the respect and trust of his players.

In footage from an early practice entering his third season, Eddie told his players: “I let you down last year. I won’t let you down this year.”

And he didn’t, as the Wildcats won the SEC and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

“I really and truly don’t think he had a drop (of alcohol) my sophomore year,” Chapman said. “He was fantastic.”

Eddie was different, too. He got back to coaching his way, even challenging Chapman to work on his weaknesses.

“I needed to be coached,” Chapman said. “And I loved everything about being on the court, the practices and the games. I don’t think there’s anything I wouldn’t have done for him.”

A week after that season ended, the scandal broke. And after a losing season in 1988-89, Sutton resigned.

He took a year off, and when Hamilton left for Miami, Henry Iba pushed the idea of bringing Eddie home.

“He’s the right kind of people,” said Iba, who coached Sutton at OSU.

And he was OSU’s kind of coach, and a favorite son to boot.

“I’ve always had a dream that one day I might come back to my alma mater,” Sutton said at his introductory press conference in Stillwater.

Of course, the rest is history. Basketball history and university history, with Eddie’s instant success revitalizing hopes and dreams across campus and among boosters living near and far.

“A champ to me comes off the deck,” said legendary ESPN analyst Dick Vitale. “And he came off the deck big time.”

Eddie was home. And happy.

“I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to bring this kind of success back to our school,” Sutton would say.

Our school… His school.

After graduating OSU (then A&M) in 1958, Eddie returned all those decades later in 1990.

Returned home.

Thanks to a bad experience in his dream job at Kentucky.

Zachary Lancaster

Growing up, I was a baseball player. I loved everything about it, the sounds, the smell of a ballpark, hitting dingers. That, combined with the fact that I was born in 1991, I don’t have too many memories of an Eddie Sutton-coached Oklahoma State basketball team. However, growing up in an Oklahoma State household, I knew all about the 1995 Final Four featuring ‘Big Country’ Bryant Reeves. I also knew of the horrific plane crash in 2001 that took the lives of two pilots and eight members of the basketball program.

I started paying more attention to the basketball program once I got into middle school, but by that time, coach Sutton was already gone from Oklahoma State. So, my first foray into Oklahoma State basketball, as well as coach Sutton, wasn’t until about five to six years ago. Being around the basketball program now and covering it, I thought I had learned a lot about Eddie Sutton. Boy, was I wrong.

EDDIE is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched, sports or not. It grabbed you as soon as you started it and didn’t let go for two hours. It was raw and didn’t hold any punches on the shortcomings. Eddie Sutton is easily one of the greatest basketball coaches of all-time who influenced the game not many people have or will, but he was also a human who faced his share of demons, as we all have. It was emotional from start to finish with plenty of highs and plenty of lows.

It also makes you realize just how unfairly people held onto his shortcomings, rather than his accomplishments to the game, and all the times those opinions kept him from getting into the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to meet coach Sutton. But I’ve heard dozens and dozens of stories from Tom Dirato. Combine those with this documentary and yes, “Thank God for Henry Iba.” The world, especially Oklahoma State, is a better place for Eddie Sutton.

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