The former head coach of great NCAA college basketball universities such as Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, and San Francisco, Eddie Sutton, passed away at the old age of 84. The legendary men’s college basketball coach died on Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 from natural causes at his home in South Tulsa, Oklahoma while surrounded by close family members.
Early Life and Playing Career
Sutton was born on March 12th, 1936 in Bucklin, Kansas. He attended Bucklin High School where he graduated in 1954. Eddie decided to enroll at Oklahoma A&M College located in Stillwater, Oklahoma which later became Oklahoma State University – Stillwater. He played guard for the Cowboys men’s basketball team from 1955 to 1958 under their head coach at that time, Henry Iba. During his senior year at Oklahoma State he averaged 8.3 points per game, and he helped lead his team qualify for the NCAA tournament. In 1958 Sutton ended up graduating from the University of Oklahoma State with a bachelor’s degree.
Early Coaching Career
Eddie began his young coaching career as a graduate assistant coach for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys from 1958 to 1959 until he earned his master’s degree in 1959. Sutton was then named the head coach of the varsity basketball team at Tulsa Central High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He recorded an overall record of 119 wins and 51 loses there from 1959 to 1966. Then from 1966 to 1969 he was the first head coach at the College of Southern Idaho which is a junior college located in Twin Falls, Idaho. He led their basketball team to an outstanding record of 84 wins and 14 loses, and this success quickly resulted in Sutton gaining some much deserved national attention in the college basketball landscape of the NCAA.
Sutton’s first NCAA Division I head coaching job at Creighton University. He inherited a struggling Bluejays men’s basketball squad that was coming off three straight losing seasons. During his time at Creighton from 1969 to 1974 he completely turned around the Bluejays’ losing tendencies. Eddie led Creighton University to five consecutive winning seasons with the best coming from the 1973 – 1974 season where the Bluejays went 23 and 7 resulting in a birth into the NCAA Tournament.
The University of Arkansas
In 1974 Sutton became the next head coach of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks’ men’s basketball team located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Throughout his tenure at Arkansas from 1974 to 1985 he managed to win 260 games while losing only 75 contests. He motivated his teams to win five Southwest Conference regular season championships, and nine NCAA Tournament invites including a NCAA Final Four appearance during the 1977 – 1978 college basketball season. His continued success landed him the opportunity to become the head coach of one of the biggest NCAA basketball programs at the University of Kentucky.
The University of Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats have always been considered to be a major powerhouse in the men’s college basketball scene. Sutton became the head coach at Kentucky on April 2nd, 1985. Immediately impactful, Sutton led the Wildcats to finish the 1985 – 1986 season with an incredible record of 32 and 4 as well as deep run in the NCAA Tournament making it all the way to the Elite 8. Unfortunately, Eddie resigned after only 4 short seasons at Kentucky amidst a NCAA investigation into a scandal involving the Wildcats basketball program violating NCAA rules and policies.
Oklahoma State University
After taking a year off from coaching basketball, he was hired as the next head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboysmen’s basketball team in 1990. This is where it all began for Coach Sutton at his alma mater of Oklahoma State University. Stillwater is arguably where Eddie flourished into one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time.
Throughout his illustrious 16 season career at Oklahoma State Sutton propelled his Cowboys basketball teams to 13 NCAA Tournaments. His squads made it to 6 Sweet Sixteen’s, 3 Elite Eight’s, and 2 Final Four appearances. From 1990 to 2006 Oklahoma State compiled a record of 368 and 151 while winning two regular season conference titles as well as three conference tournament championships.
In 2005 Oklahoma State University named the court at Gallagher-Iba Arena “Eddie Sutton Court.” The successful and highly admired head basketball coach announced his retirement in 2006 following a car accident in which he was injured as well as cited by the authorities for driving under the influence.
University of San Francisco
Sutton finished his NCAA college basketball coaching career at the University of San Francisco when he was named the interim head coach during the 2007 – 2008 college basketball season. Although the Dons finished that year with a record of 10 and 21 including a record of 6 and 13 under Coach Sutton, Eddie recorded his 800th win as the head coach of a NCAA Division I men’s basketball team. He was only the fifth college basketball coach to reach that unbelievable and difficult achievement at that time. Sutton finished his amazing coaching career with an overall record of 806 wins and 326 loses in college as well as an overall record of 84 wins and 14 loses in junior college.
Eddie Sutton’s Career Accomplishments, Awards, and Honors
- 3 NCAA Division I Tournament Final Fours (1978, 1995, 2004)
- 5 SWC Regular Season Championships (1977–1979, 1981, 1982)
- 3 SWC Tournament Championships (1977, 1979, 1982)
- SEC Regular Season Championship (1986)
- SEC Tournament Championship (1986)
- 2 Big Eight Regular Season Championships (1992, 1995)
- Big Eight Tournament Championship (1995)
- Big 12 Regular Season Championship (2004)
- 2 Big 12 Tournament Championships (2004, 2005)
- 2 Time AP College Coach of the Year Awards (1978, 1986)
- NABC Coach of the Year Award (1986)
- Henry Iba Award (1977)
- 4 Time SWC Coach of the Year Awards (1975, 1977, 1979, 1981)
- SEC Coach of the Year Award (1986)
- Big Eight Coach of the Year Award (1993)
- 2 Time Big 12 Coach of the Year Awards (1998, 2004)
- Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2020)
- Inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2011)
NCAA College Basketball Career Coaching Statistics
|Season||School||Conf||G||W||L||W-L%||SRS||SOS||AP Pre||AP High||AP Final||Notes||Adjusted|
|1976-77||Arkansas||SWC||28||26||2||.929||11.91||-0.13||6||18||Reg. Season Champion; Conf. Tournament Champion; NCAA Tournament|
|1977-78||Arkansas||SWC||36||32||4||.889||15.97||3.57||7||1||5||Reg. Season Champion; NCAA Tournament; NCAA FF|
|1978-79||Arkansas||SWC||30||25||5||.833||13.63||2.57||5||5||Reg. Season Champion; Conf. Tournament Champion; NCAA Tournament|
|1980-81||Arkansas||SWC||32||24||8||.750||12.06||4.76||20||11||20||Reg. Season Champion; NCAA Tournament|
|1981-82||Arkansas||SWC||29||23||6||.793||14.79||6.35||18||5||12||Reg. Season Champion; Conf. Tournament Champion; NCAA Tournament|
|1985-86||Kentucky||SEC||36||32||4||.889||21.80||9.63||11||3||3||Reg. Season Champion; Conf. Tournament Champion; NCAA Tournament|
|1987-88||Kentucky||SEC||33*||27*||6*||.818||18.90||8.87||5||1||6||Reg. Season Champion; Conf. Tournament Champion; NCAA Tournament||*Overall W-L adjusted to 25-5|
|1990-91||Oklahoma State||Big 8||32||24||8||.750||21.18||7.71||12||14||Reg. Season Champion; NCAA Tournament|
|1991-92||Oklahoma State||Big 8||36||28||8||.778||21.52||10.77||13||2||11||NCAA Tournament|
|1992-93||Oklahoma State||Big 8||29||20||9||.690||14.62||9.90||19||23||NCAA Tournament|
|1993-94||Oklahoma State||Big 8||34||24||10||.706||17.65||8.37||11||8||19||NCAA Tournament|
|1994-95||Oklahoma State||Big 8||37||27||10||.730||21.72||10.27||21||14||14||Conf. Tournament Champion; NCAA Tournament; NCAA FF|
|1995-96||Oklahoma State||Big 8||27||17||10||.630||12.08||6.08|
|1996-97||Oklahoma State||Big 12||32||17||15||.531||6.95||6.98|
|1997-98||Oklahoma State||Big 12||29||22||7||.759||14.29||4.63||25||NCAA Tournament|
|1998-99||Oklahoma State||Big 12||34||23||11||.676||12.64||5.55||13||11||NCAA Tournament|
|1999-00||Oklahoma State||Big 12||34||27||7||.794||20.01||6.59||22||8||14||NCAA Tournament|
|2000-01||Oklahoma State||Big 12||30||20||10||.667||10.81||4.70||NCAA Tournament|
|2001-02||Oklahoma State||Big 12||32||23||9||.719||14.39||6.80||18||5||20||NCAA Tournament|
|2002-03||Oklahoma State||Big 12||32||22||10||.688||14.62||8.46||9||NCAA Tournament|
|2003-04||Oklahoma State||Big 12||35||31||4||.886||20.85||7.23||25||4||4||Reg. Season Champion; Conf. Tournament Champion; NCAA Tournament; NCAA FF|
|2004-05||Oklahoma State||Big 12||33||26||7||.788||21.40||9.68||7||3||6||Conf. Tournament Champion; NCAA Tournament|
|2005-06||Oklahoma State||Big 12||33||17||16||.515||11.25||6.67|
The Sutton family says in a released statement, “Was an honor and a tribute to the great players he coached and outstanding assistant coaches that worked for him.”
“When that happened, it was a setup,” Eddie Sutton said to the Kansas City Star back in 2011. “Who would send money like that? And an overnight package somehow opens up? You need a crowbar to open those things.”
“It means a great deal,” says Sutton. “It is quite an honor.”
Burns Hargis tweeted: “#okstate is deeply saddened by the passing of Coach Eddie Sutton. A Hall of Fame Coach with more than 800 wins, he revived our historic basketball program and will always be revered and loved by the #CowboyFamily. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Sutton family.”
“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 explained during his retirement press conference. “It’s really slow suicide if you drink.”
Rex Chapman tweeted: “Eddie Sutton was a fascinating and complicated person. He also was an unbelievable teacher of the game of basketball. I was fortunate and lucky to have learned from him. Grateful.
Hall. Of. Famer.
Thanks, Coach Ed.
“Dad and Mom treated their players like family and always shared the belief that his teachings went beyond the basketball court,” the Sutton family expressed in their recently released statement. “He cherished the time he spent at every school and appreciated the support of their loyal fans. He believed they deserved so much credit in the success of his programs.”
Dick Vitale tweeted: “So sorry & sad to just learn of the passing of HALL OF FAME COACH EDDIE SUTTON ! It was such a thrill for the family this yr to get the call that Eddie was finally voted into the HOF while living. May Eddie RIP @ESPN App.”
Gary Parrish tweeted: “RIP Eddie Sutton.
I hate that he won’t get to experience his Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame induction. But I’m glad he at least knew he was accepted before he died.
He deserved the HOF.”
Holly Rowe tweeted: “So happy that Coach Eddie Sutton knew he was a Hall of Famer before he left. ❤️❤️❤️ #eddiesutton @OSUMBB”
“Coach Sutton was always very kind to me as a young coach and I’ll never forget that,” John Calipari stated. “I’m so happy for him and his family on this well-deserved honor.”
Ben (HawgHoops) tweeted: “Eddie Sutton.
The man responsible for beginning what we know as Arkansas basketball. He compiled a record of 260-75 while on the Hill.
He’s a legend, Hall of Famer, and Razorback.
Thank you, Eddie.
HogStats.com tweeted: “Eddie Sutton’s #Arkansas teams won 77.6% of their conference games (139-35 in SWC play), the best such winning percentage by a @RazorbackMBB head coach and best conference winning % in #SWC history.”
“Coach Sutton is an integral part of the history of Razorback Basketball,” says the University of Arkansas Razorbacks’ vice chancellor and athletic director Hunter Yurachek. “Coach Sutton helped transform the way our state thought about college basketball and provided Razorback fans with countless memories.
“His legacy is not only shaped by his many victories and championships, but also by the immeasurable impact he made in the lives of the young men who called him ‘Coach.’ The thoughts and prayers of the entire Razorback nation are with Steve, Scott, Sean and the entire Sutton family.”
Matt Jones tweeted: “Former Kentucky Coach Eddie Sutton has passed away
He coached the Cats from 1985-1989 and brought (among others) Rex Chapman and the Unforgettables to Lexington
He was a College Basketball coaching legend. Prayers to his family, friends and former players.
KFORsports tweeted: “We can confirm that Eddie Sutton has passed away at the age of 84. Our @BrianBrinkleyOK looks back over the life of the hall of fame coach. #OKState”
“Oklahoma State University is deeply saddened by the passing of Coach Eddie Sutton,” says the Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis. “A Hall of Fame Coach with more than 800 wins, he revived our historic basketball program and will always be revered and loved by the Cowboy family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Sutton family.”
Myron Medcalf tweeted: “We’ll say a lot of things about Eddie Sutton’s legacy in the coming days, weeks and months. But leading the emotional recovery of an entire state after the 2001 plane crash that killed 10 people affiliated with Oklahoma State basketball is something we don’t discuss enough.”
Tim Brando tweeted: “My heart Goes out to the Family of Eddie Sutton. I last saw son, Sean @DePaulHoops last December. He’s currently on Chris Beard’s staff at Texas Tech. Like his Dad, and brothers a wonderful guy that’s overcome quite a bit. I covered him as a player for his Dad. RIP Eddie!”