page contents Former Oklahoma State, Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton dies at 84 - Sports Journee
Sports Journee

Former Oklahoma State, Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton dies at 84

Legendary college basketball coach Eddie Sutton, who won more than 800 games and was the first coach to take four different schools to the NCAA tournament, died Saturday at the age of 84, his son, Sean, told ESPN’s Myron Medcalf.

In April, Sutton was voted into the Naismith Basketball of Fame after being a finalist on five occasions. He will be posthumously inducted in August, as will Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

Sutton coached basketball for 50 years, at six different colleges and one high school, but is best known for a successful run at his alma mater Oklahoma State and a controversial tenure at Kentucky.

He reached the Final Four three times and during his 37 seasons coaching at the Division-I level, Sutton finished a season below .500 just twice: his final season at Kentucky and during a half-season at San Francisco. He still ranks in the top 25 all-time in wins, with 806.

Kentucky hired Sutton from Arkansas for the 1985-86 season, and he led the Wildcats to a 32-4 record and an Elite Eight appearance. But after just four seasons, Sutton announced his resignation in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the basketball program.

In October 1988, the NCAA announced 18 charges against the basketball program following a Los Angeles Daily News report stating that Emery Worldwide air freight workers found $1,000 in a package allegedly sent from Kentucky assistant Dwane Casey to the father of Kentucky recruit Chris Mills.

The NCAA gave Kentucky a two-year postseason ban and prevented it from playing on live television during the 1989-90 season; Casey was placed on NCAA probation for five years; and Mills was ruled ineligible.

Sutton and Casey have maintained their innocence.

“When that happened, it was a set-up,” Sutton told the Kansas City Star in 2011. “Who would send money like that? And an overnight package somehow opens up? You need a crowbar to open those things.”

Sutton returned to Oklahoma State beginning in 1990, and immediately brought winning ways back to the Stillwater. During his 16 seasons with the Cowboys, they reached 13 NCAA tournaments, six Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights and Final Four appearances in 1995 and 2004.

In 2005, the school announced the court at Gallagher-Iba Arena would be named Eddie Sutton Court.

“It means a great deal,” Sutton said at the time. “It is quite an honor.”

Sutton announced his retirement in 2006, three months after he took a leave of absence following a car accident in which he was injured and cited for driving under the influence. Sutton, who admitted he had previous battles with alcoholism, was succeeded by his son, Sean.

“People today in our country know a lot more about alcoholism, but there’s still people that don’t know what the disease is, how it affects someone as a person,” Sutton said at his retirement news conference. “It’s really slow suicide if you drink.”

Sutton played his college ball at Oklahoma State under Henry Iba, and began his coaching career as an assistant for one season after graduating. After several seasons coaching high school basketball in Tulsa, Sutton helped found the men’s basketball program at the College of Southern Idaho — then called Southern Idaho Junior College — in 1967.

Sutton went to Creighton for five seasons, reaching the NCAA tournament in 1974. He spent 11 seasons at Arkansas, make a Final Four appearance in 1978 and an Elite Eight appearance the following season. He made the NCAA tournament in his final nine seasons with the Razorbacks.

He was chosen for the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.

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