Eddie Sutton, who took two different schools to the Final Four during a Hall of Fame coaching career that spanned five decades, has died. He was 84.
Sutton's family said in a statement early Sunday that he died of natural causes at his home in South Tulsa, Okla., surrounded by loved ones. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Saturday night that Sutton had been in hospice care.
Sutton was voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last April, an honor many of his supporters believed should have been awarded him years earlier. He recorded 806 wins, 11th all time in NCAA Division I, over 37 seasons, and took four schools to the NCAA Tournament (Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State). He also coached San Francisco for half a season in 2007-08.
He led Arkansas (1978) and Oklahoma State (1995, 2004) to the Final Four, losing in the national semifinals each time.
His career also had signifcant personal low points.
He left Kentucky under pressure in 1989 amid an NCAA investigation that culminated in harsh sanctions against the program. Sutton insisted he was innocent. The Democrat-Gazette, in its story, recalled his struggles with alcohol at the time and later in life. The Associated Press noted Sutton's 2006 arrest on charges of aggravated DUI and traffic offenses, to which he pleaded no contest.
Sutton was in charge of Oklahoma State's program in 2001 when two players, six staffers and two pilots were killed in a plane crash after a game at Colorado.
Some early reactions by high-profile basketball people to Sutton's death:
Dear Coach, thank you. You told us that life was hard, but if we could make it through your practices, we could achieve anything. You were right.
You told us that when we play “Oklahoma” or “the Jayhawks” we outta… https://t.co/BPS8FgndJc
— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) May 24, 2020
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.
Rest. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/bfIk7fm1xd
— Rex Chapman (@RexChapman) May 24, 2020
Sad night tonight! Lost an important man in my life. Taught me the game of basketball like no other, but more importantly helped me grow as a man! RIP coach sutton! I love you
— Scott Hastings (@ScottHastings) May 24, 2020
My family and I want to express our condolences to the Sutton family. Coach Sutton was a special Coach, father figure, friend, and he will be forever missed!!! pic.twitter.com/TxPN1g6ZYI
— Corey Williams (@CoachWilliams12) May 24, 2020
Oh wow, one of the good guys is now with God! Thank u Coach Sutton for being a friend. My prayers r with the Sutton family https://t.co/KTTHVtiAC9
— Frank Martin (@FrankMartin_SC) May 24, 2020