OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A giant in the college basketball world is gone. Former Oklahoma State head coach Eddie Sutton has died at the age of 84.
Sutton’s storied career spanned more than 50 years. Sutton had success wherever he coached, but catapulted Oklahoma State basketball to new heights.
After four years as the head coach at Kentucky, Eddie Sutton’s reign as the Wildcats leader ended with a recruiting scandal and JC probation.
After sitting out of coaching for one year, the 53-year old Sutton got a call from his alma mater. Oklahoma State had an opening for their head basketball coaching position and Sutton’s former coach, the legendary Henry Iba, welcomed him home to Stillwater. At that opening news conference, Sutton took the initiative. He brought up his days at Kentucky and his battles with alcohol.
“I dealt with it, and I think the fact I dealt with it better prepares me to help other people and especially to help young people.”
It didn’t take long for Sutton to have success at OSU. Former coach Leonard Hamilton had left plenty of talent to work with, and led by junior forward Byron Houston, the cowboys went to the sweet 16.
Another sweet 16 followed the next season, which saw the beginning of the “Big Country” era. Bryant reeves went from a wide-eyed freshman to a polished All-American by 1995. And he and three other seniors led OSU to a place they had not been in 44 years, the Final Four.
The season ended in Seattle with a loss to eventual champion UCLA. But it was clear by then, Sutton had re-established cowboy basketball as a national power.
Six years after Sutton’s high point as Cowboy coach, came the low point. Not only in Sutton’s tenure at his alma mater, but in the school’s athletic history.
On January 27, 2001, 10 members of the OSU basketball family were killed when a plane crashed on a return flight after a game against Colorado. They’ve been forever memorialized at Gallagher-Iba Arena, and the hearts of OSU fans everywhere.
Sutton said, “It will be difficult, and now seemingly impossible. But we will get through this. And we will be better people for it.”
The pain of the plane crash still lingers for those around the program, but Cowboy success continued.
In 2004, a team full of transfers, second-chance players gelled like no other in Sutton’s time at Oklahoma State.
OSU was back in the Final four, this time in San Antonio, where Georgia tech ended the Cowboys’ season with a two point win.
OSU lost to Arizona in the sweet 16 the next year. And 2006 marked the end of Sutton’s tenure in Stillwater.
On February 10th, Sutton was in an accident caused by drunken driving saying, “I succumbed to temptation and went and bought a bottle.”
Following the accident Eddie took a leave of absence, and his son Sean took over the coaching duties for the rest of the season. In May of that year, Sutton officially resigned as head coach of the Cowboys saying, “I’ve had my time and what a time it was.”
Two wins shy of 800 for his career, Sutton returned to coaching two seasons later at the University of San Francisco getting his 800th win to become just the fifth division one men’s coach to accomplish the feat.
Sutton has been a frequent sight at OSU home games in the last decade and his imprint on OSU athletics will be felt for years to come.
It was officially announced in March of 2020 that Eddie Sutton would be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Sutton went to three Final Four’s, was a two time AP College Coach of the Year and was a College Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in 2011.