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Kenny Walker on Eddie Sutton: “He could flat out coach”

John Calipari with former UK coach Eddie Sutton.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Eddie Sutton took three teams to the Final Four — and probably deserved to have also got Kentucky there based on the talent he had during his time at Kentucky.

He won 806 games, took 25 teams to the NCAA Tournament and was recently selected for induction in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on his seventh try.

He died Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., at age 84.

“Eddie Sutton could flat out coach,” former UK All-American Kenny Walker said. “I know he had problems after I left and I hated that because we were so good that first year when we were 32-4 and on the verge of a (national) championship.

“I think if UK could have given him a few more years here, he could have delivered (a national championship). He was that good.”

Sutton’s first Kentucky team finished 32-4 and might have won a national title in Walker’s senior season except it lost to LSU — a team it had already beat three times that season — in the Elite Eight. Still, Sutton had a 90-40 record at UK before scandal rocket the program and cost him his job.

Sutton, though, got his personal life together, got a chance to be head coach at Oklahoma State from 1990-2006.

“He was always kind to me and my family when I was a young coach and we’ve stayed in touch throughout his life. He’s going to be missed. RIP, my friend. He and his family are in my prayers,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said Sunday.

Roger Harden was UK’s point guard on Sutton’s first team and noted on social media that Sutton “believed in me when I didn’t and it changed my life.” That’s a strong, strong statement considering Harden also played for Joe Hall.

Harden considered Sutton a “life long friend” and said going 32-4 that year was the “joy of a lifetime” for him.

“I will cherish the many warm memories you gave me until we meet again,” Harden posted on Twitter about Sutton.

Former UK assistant coach Jimmy Dykes played for Sutton at Arkansas and remembers a time Arkansas lost two of three games in a tournament in Hawaii, went to the airport after the game, flew all night and then went straight to practice at 7a.m. after landing.

“Practiced three times that day and took 100 charges each. That was Coach Sutton. And we loved him,” Dykes said.

Dykes said as a player and coach under Sutton, he knew “we would never be outreached by the guy on the opposing bench.”

This came from a player who did not make the travel squad his first year playing for Sutton.

Reggie Hanson played for Eddie Sutton at Kentucky.

Reggie Hanson came to Kentucky to play for Sutton and then played for Rick Pitino after Sutton’s departure. He said they had two “totally different coaching styles” at Kentucky.

“Eddie was defensive coach and not into player development at much,” Hanson said. “When I started with him I 6-7 about 180 pounds. He said I had to do more than just post up or I would not successful. And he could really coaching defense.”

Actually, he could just really coach and he also knew to appreciate the history and tradition of Kentucky basketball. He was a true gentleman and I loved the way he was willing to talk and then talk some more even with media members about his team or basketball in general.

I also admired the way he never had a bad thing to say about Kentucky after he left and continued to heap praise on the UK program.

Sure he had problems. Sure he did some things wrong. But he learned from his mistakes and will always believe he was one of the best coaches in the game.

8 comments

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  1. Eddie Sutton could coach, and did a great job at UK despite what happened on his watch. He will be missed, especially by the men who played for him. I hated to hear of his passing.

  2. Coach Sutton and Coach Casey got railroaded by our own administration. There were plenty of things to challenge in that setup and UK just rolled over and took it, well shoved it up the coaches butts. We did nothing wrong and their careers took a hit for it.

  3. R. I. P. Coach! Yes, I do believe he was railroaded also by our administration, and the NCAA. There was a lot more to that story.

  4. Even know I wasn’t a fan of Sutton at the time. I agree with nostalgic 33.

  5. David Roselle became the UK president in 1987. His last school was Delaware. Roselle was determined to bring down our basketball program. He said universities should be centers of learning, not athletics. He did not contest one single aspect of the charges that were asserted, not proven, by the NCAA. Supposedly, $1500 was found in an Emory overnight package with tapes of Chris Mills high school games. These packages are as tough as elephant hide and it just happened to burst open upon arrival in LAX. This was obviously a setup by UCLA alums who were tired of us recruiting top talent out of their backyard. Otis Singletary was the president who hired Sutton, and he would have kicked the NCAA’s Indiana asses to the North Pole. Roselle seemed to invite the charges and didn’t challenge any of them. Rather than make the NCAA prove the charges, Roselle accepted the allegations as fact and said the university would accept whatever penalties the NCAA felt were justified. Roselle is the one who should have been brought up on charges. He defamed Coaches Sutton and Casey and labeled UK as the cheater university. Both coaches suffered with this indignity for several years, but both went on to resume successful coaching careers later on. Roselle left UK two years after completing his mission. What a sorry SOB!

  6. Larry, I have always believed that we should have fought. I knew Duane and NEVER believed he did what he was accused of, Is the story above as you see it?

  7. Was he railroaded? I think the $1,000 to $1,500 envelope deal could have been a set up, but who knows? What hurt Sutton was some other violations were supposedly uncovered. Also new leadership at Kentucky in Roselle A losing record during the 88/89 season didn’t help his cause either, and his drinking problem probably was the kicker. I do think Sutton was a good coach, and proved it during his career at several schools and particularly at OSU. Hated to see his passing.

  8. Thanks

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