Eddie Sutton was the first coach to take four different Division I schools to the NCAA tournament. He won more than 800 games in his illustrious head coaching career. He took two different programs to the Final Four, and in April, he was finally voted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
On Saturday, Sutton died in his home in South Tulsa, surrounded by his family.
He was 84 years.
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Sutton is best known for the success he had at his alma mater, Oklahoma State. He spent 16 seasons with the Cowboys, going to 13 NCAA tournaments, six Sweet 16s and the Final Four in 1995 and 2004. The court in Gallagher-Iba Arena is named after him.
Sutton retired in 2006 following a car accident in which he was cited for driving under the influence. He had battled alcoholism.
“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 a news conference when he retired. “It’s really slow suicide if you drink.”
His coaching career began in 1967, when he helped found the basketball program at the College of Southern Idaho. After five seasons at Creighton and 11 years at Arkansas — including a trip to the Final Four in 1978 — Sutton took over at Kentucky. But his tenure in the Bluegrass lasted just four years. He resigned after a report in the Los Angeles Daily News that a package shipped from former Kentucky assistant Dwane Casey to the father of Kentucky recruit Chris Mills contained $1,000.
Sutton always maintained his innocence, telling the Kansas City Star in 2011 that “it was a set-up,” but the scandal was a major reason it took him until this spring to get voted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
He will be inducted posthumously in August, along with Kobe Bryant.