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The Top Five Moments of the Eddie Sutton Era at Oklahoma State

A look back at the mountaintops.



This is an impossible list to put together of course, but I thought it would be a lot of fun to roll back through the archives and try to pick off Eddie Sutton’s five best moments. I will inevitably miss a few, but I tried my best to hit the high points. Let’s start at the very beginning.

1. Syllabus Day (April 11, 1990)

From the jump, it was a special union. Eddie and the Pokes. The Pokes and Eddie. It would be as if Mike Gundy made a name for himself at South Carolina and then Alabama before getting in trouble and coming home to Stillwater. That’s a weird alternate reality to think about.

Anyway, the Tulsa World recently did an awesome look-back at Eddie’s introduction day, and this portion of it got me. This is Steve Buzzard, who was OSU’s head of media relations at the time.

The other thing that was so gratifying was how utterly thrilled Coach (Henry) Iba was to introduce him and to welcome him back to OSU.  He was “one of his” and the pride he felt was palpable. Mr. Iba would only live three more years but I know with confidence that was one of the happiest days of his later life. With the hiring of Eddie Sutton, the Iba family was immediately reunited with Cowboy Basketball … a move that was needed and long overdue.

When I see the picture of Mr. Iba shaking Coach Sutton’s hand at the press conference that day it is a remarkable image. The two most important figures in the history of Oklahoma State basketball shaking hands on the most significant day in the history of Oklahoma State basketball. [Tulsa World]

The photos in the Tulsa World article alone are worth the read. Go check it out.

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2. Back-to-Back Sweet 16s

OSU was good right away under Sutton. After a final year under Leonard Hamilton in which OSU went 17-14, they followed the next two years by going 52-16. They won the Big Eight in 1991 before losing to Temple as a No. 3 seed in the Sweet 16 (Temple was a No. 10 seed). That game went to OT, where Temple outscored the Pokes 19-10.

The 1992 NCAA Tournament was even crazier. OSU finished second to Kansas in the Big Eight that year and got a No. 2 seed. After beating Southern Georgia and Tulane, OSU got the Fab Five in the Sweet 16. They took them to the wire in what would end up being the last college game for Byron Houston, Sean Sutton, Cornell Hatcher, Corey Williams and Darwyn Alexander.

“Jalen Rose, at that time, I thought he might be the all-time best trash talker,” Sean said recently. OSU almost took them down. The Pokes lost 75-72, but it capped a silly little two-year run that showed what Eddie was capable of when he was thriving in Stillwater.

“I had a lot of fun at Kentucky, but it doesn’t compare to the time I had here,” said Sean in 1992. “I can’t say enough about the four seniors I played with. They’ve made my basketball career. We re-established the winning tradition at OSU. We have five guys who can walk out of here with their heads held high.”

Pretty awesome.

3. UMass

After rolling through Drexel, Alabama and Wake, OSU took down John Calipari (all the Kentucky ties in this game!) and moved on to the Final Four. It was a nice bookend to that press conference just five years (nearly to the day) earlier where Mr. Iba introduced Eddie.

Here’s the Tulsa World.

“I know the man that I played for, who I consider to be one of the giants that has ever coached the roundball sport, he’s got a big smile on his face today looking down on this group of young men because they played the game like he would have coached them,” said Sutton.

But it wasn’t easy. OSU labored to halftime, where it trailed, before shutting the door in the second half. UMass shot 28 percent from the floor.

Erupting out of a feeble halftime position, the Stillwater barracudas swarmed Massachusetts like students to a hamburger at Eskimo Joe’s. O-State scored eight of the first 10 points after intermission, later mounted a 22-4 run and bounced the No. 2-seeded team John Calipari had groomed for a Final Four berth 68-54 in the NCAA East Regional championship game.

A stunned Meadowlands Arena crowd of 19,689 watched regional tourney MVP Bryant Reeves and Scott Pierce combine to hold Marcus Camby and Lou Roe to 15 points on 5-of-21 shooting. And on the other end, Reeves poured in 24 points and Randy Rutherford warmed up in the second half with four 3-pointers and finished with 19.

The Cowboys staggered home, playing without a point for more than four minutes after running up a 15-point lead with 6:24 to go. But Rutherford’s last trey pried the lid off the basket and OSU scored nine points in the final two minutes.

With fans in the Cowboys’ section chanting “Final Four … Final Four,” Reeves heaved the basketball toward the rafters as the clock ticked down to 0:00. Jason Skaer picked up Andre Owens and turned him upside down with Owens yelling, “Yeah, baby … yeah, baby.” And both Skaer and Chianti Roberts, who fouled out in only 15 second-half seconds, high-fived the OSU radio crew on press row. [Tulsa World]

A fabulous first five years.

4. Florida*

I’ll always think that 2000 team was Eddie’s most fun. That may or may not be true, and it may because I was 15 and at the most formative part of my life that I think this, but man, I loved this team. It was Eddie at his best — and you saw this in different parts of his career — collecting a bunch of seeming misfits from other places (transfers, high school stars and foreigners) and making them whole.

OSU went 12-4 and somehow finished fourth in the Big 12 that year. They beat Hofstra, Pepperdine and Seton Hall that year in the Dance before falling to the Gatas.

Here’s Berry Tramel from The Oklahoman after that Florida game.

The Cowboys were grizzled. At the end of the trail. Old and old-fashioned. A team from the past, back when you paid dues and bided your time and won at the appointed time. Back when seniors commanded respect and were expected to dominate their sport. OSU was the poster child of building a team brick by brick, year after year. [The Oklahoman]

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“We’re gonna miss ’em,” Eddie said of Desmond Mason, Doug Gottlieb and Co. One of his all-time great teams. “It’s sad to see ’em go.”


5. St. Joe’s

The easiest inclusion of them all. Carson has said this before, and I think I agree. The photo of Eddie standing atop the ladder in the Meadowlands holding the net, grinning to the OSU section with another eclectic group looking up at him is how Eddie should be remembered.


And he will be. This game was another bookend to that first day in 1990.

“The most pressure I’ve ever felt in my career was the day I came back to Oklahoma State,” Eddie said after beating St. Joe’s. “We had suffered through a long drought in basketball. When I got back, Mr. Iba was so proud that one of our own boys was back. I remember when he would come out to our practices so often after I came back.

“This is one way I can say thanks to the school for when I played. No one has better fans than us. I’m so happy for them because I know how much it means to them.”

*At different points of this I wanted to allude to Eddie’s reaction to the plane crash. It certainly was not a top-five moment, but the way he handled it all was. I didn’t end up including it, but it’s worth mentioning.

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