Coach Sutton's Legacy
Coach Eddie Sutton and his wife Patsy started their family in Tulsa, Oklahoma where Eddie began his coaching career at Central High School, coaching the boys basketball team for seven years. In 1966, Eddie accepted the challenge of building a basketball program at The College of Southern Idaho, literally from the ground up: the college did not even have its own campus until 1968. But Eddie’s teams built an 83-14 record. A fresh challenge beckoned in 1969, and the family left Idaho for Omaha, where Eddie took over the struggling basketball program at Creighton University. He led his Creighton teams to five consecutive winning seasons and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1974, his final season.
In 1974, Eddie once again took on a new challenge, and the family moved to Fayetteville, Ark., where Barnhill Fieldhouse had sawdust floors and portable bleachers. Eddie brought national prominence to his Arkansas teams and a new facility for their fans. His teams had an unprecedented record of 120-8 at home over eleven seasons, and a 77% overall winning percentage, a record for the Southwest Conference. Along the way, he took Arkansas to the Final Four in 1978, and also beat number one ranked North Carolina led by Michael Jordan. Today UA teams use the “Eddie Sutton Practice Gym.”
During this period, he became one of the first coaches nationally to sign a team shoe contract with Nike footwear. He maintained strong ties with Nike throughout the rest of his career.
In 1985, he took over the basketball program at the University Kentucky, as only its third coach in the last fifty-five years. In four years at Kentucky, his teams had an 88-39 record, with three NCAA tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight appearance in 1986 and the Sweet Sixteen in 1988. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1986.
When he had the opportunity to return to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, in April 1990, he said he felt “like a little boy on Christmas morning.” As he had done at Idaho, Creighton, and Arkansas, he immediately began working to improve and honor the fan experience of basketball. He led his OSU teams to thirteen NCAA tournaments in sixteen years and two Final Four appearances in 1995 and 2004. While at OSU, he coached seven All-Americans, fifty-two all-conference Cowboys, five Big Eight/Big XII Players of the Year and nine NBA draft picks. Today, the OSU basketball court is named “Eddie Sutton Court.”
Eddie was the first coach to take four different schools to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and one of only nine to win 800 or more games in his career (806); named National Coach of the Year four times and Conference Coach of the year eight times; coached numerous All-Americans, All-Conference players, and NBA players; served as President of the National Association of Basketball Coaches in 1987-88.
In March of 2020, just two months before his death, Eddie was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.