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Oklahoma State Basketball Legend Eddie Sutton Dies at Age 84 in Tulsa

One of the best to ever do it has passed away.

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Legendary Oklahoma State basketball coach Eddie Sutton died on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was 84 years old.

Sutton coached 16 seasons at Oklahoma State, amassing a 368-151 record. OSU teams under Sutton made two Final Fours, three Elite Eights, and six Sweet 16s. His 806 career wins rank ninth all-time among Division I coaches.

Sutton was born March 12, 1936, in Bucklin, Kansas, where he attended high school. He then went to college at OSU, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1958 and a master’s degree in 1959. He hooped at OSU under Mr. Henry Iba from 1956-1958 and made the NCAA Tournament in his final season.

Sutton and his late wife, Patsy, had three children, Steve, Sean and Scott. His sons released a statement on Saturday after his death.

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]

Sean took over for his father as OSU’s head coach in 2006. He coached the Cowboys for two seasons, finishing with a 39-29 record. Scott joined current OSU head coach Mike Boynton’s staff in 2017 after being Oral Roberts’ head coach from 1999-2017.

Along with OSU, Sutton coached at Creighton (82-50), Arkansas (260-75), Kentucky (88-39) and San Francisco (6-13). He spent 11 seasons at Arkansas, where he was named the National Coach of the Year after the 1976-77 season, and he led the Razorbacks to the Final Four the year after. He was at Kentucky for four seasons. The Wildcats finished with a 32-4 record and made the Elite Eight in his first season.

He was hired at OSU on April 11, 1990 following his infamous fallout with Kentucky in 1989 in which a recruiting scandal helped chase him out of Lexington. Kentucky’s loss was a great gain for OSU. “I’ve always had a dream that one day I might come back to my alma mater,” he said on that famous day in Oklahoma State basketball history when he was hired and Mr. Iba spoke at his opening press conference.

OSU won 20 games in a season just one time between 1965 and the day Sutton was hired. He did it in each of his first five seasons.

OSU went 24-8 in the 1990-91 season and tied for first in the conference in Sutton’s first season as the head coach. He led them to four consecutive runner-up finishes in the Big Eight following that one. Five seasons, nothing worse than a second-place finish in the Big Eight. He made good teams great very quickly.

The Cowboys scuffled a bit following the 1995 Final Four with Big Country and Randy Rutherford, but then he had some of his best (and my favorite) teams in his last few years in Stillwater. The Desmond Mason-Doug Gottlieb team was a revelation in 2000. They lost to Florida to go to the Final Four. Then Sutton returned to the Final Four in 2004 with his Tony Allen-John Lucas team after winning the Big 12 that year (his only Big 12 title).

His genius was in getting myriad personalities from all over the country to mesh into something coherent and good. He was the best at it.

“Every guy on our team had a story,” Joey Graham told me recently. “I don’t know if those are the type of guys he was looking for, but he was able to jell guys from different walks of life, different areas, environments and circumstances and put them together and get the best out of them. If that’s not what a hall of fame coach is, then I don’t know.

“How many coaches can you say have done that?”

Not many.

“We had tons of talent, tons of different guys, and he was able to bring all of us together and fall in line. The game plan — defense, defense, defense — every single person on that team … knew that’s what it was. You were going to play defense, you were going to play hard and you were going to compete. Every day.”

College basketball is about wins and losses and conference titles, to be sure, but for OSU it was suddenly about a lot more than that just after the turn of the century. Sutton’s finest hour may have been Oklahoma State’s worst day. January 27, 2001.

“When somebody asks me what’s some of the darkest days of your life, that’s certainly near the top,” Sutton said. The plane crash “took a lot out of me,” Sutton said. But it made him closer to his family and it drew him closer to his players. It made Eddie Sutton a better coach. [NewsOK]

When everybody was looking around for something to hold on to following the Colorado plane crash in early 2001, Sutton provided it. That act of kindness and graciousness extended far beyond whatever the numbers were on the court.

Make no mistake, though, the numbers were great. In seven different seasons across multiple programs, Sutton coached an NCAA team to an 80-percent winning percentage or better. A remarkable number in this sport. The only season ever in which a Sutton-coached team was below .500 was in his 19 games at San Francisco.

Sutton’s name dons the white maple hardwood in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The court was named after Sutton after he passed Henry Iba’s career win total in 2005.

Sutton was finally elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame at the beginning of April, after years and years of laboring to get in. He spent seven years on ballot as a finalist and just seven weeks in the Hall of Fame. Still, that induction was something that was a source of joy for his family.

He felt his recent hall of Fame induction in April was an honor and a tribute to the great players he coached and outstanding assistant coaches that worked for him. We are grateful for all the thoughts and prayers, and appreciate the continued respect for our privacy. A memorial service for the public will be planned at the appropriate time. [NewsOK]

Sutton is survived by his three sons and nine grandchildren. He is not only one of the best to ever do it at Oklahoma State, he’s one of the best to ever do it in college hoops. An old-school legend made of something not many are made of anymore. While his family and this community lost a great one on Saturday, it was a great joy that the decade and a half of what at one point seemed a bit like a far-fetched marriage ever came to fruition in the first place.

RIP to the 🐐 of modern Oklahoma State hoops. He was great. He was maybe the best Oklahoma State has ever had.

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