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Roger Harden says former UK coach Eddie Sutton was “always fighting” alcohol addiction

Roger Harden with former UK coach Eddie Sutton.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Point guard Roger Harden played three years at Kentucky for coach Joe Hall and then was on Eddie Sutton’s first UK team his senior year that went 32-4 and lost to LSU in the Elite Eight.

Harden later even spent one year on Sutton’s staff at Kentucky before the program fell apart and Sutton was forced to resign in part because of his alcohol addiction.

“That first year we had no indication of his addiction,” Harden said on WPBK-FM in Stanford Thursday. “That second year I came back to Kentucky and there were a few incidents where Coach had drank too much and showed up at practice.”

Harden said Sutton addressed those issues and his third year at UK — the season was Harden was on the staff — he talked to the team about his alcohol addiction and apologized.

“There were not many incidents after the second year,” Harden said. “Mrs. (Patsy) Sutton was a wonderful lady and really put her foot down that she was not going through that again. Coach struggled with it and when he did slip up, he would apologize to everyone in the office and the team.

“He was always fighting the addiction. He was a closet drinker. He was not a partier. He was drinking alone and he was a very, very happy loving person when he drank.”

Harden considered Sutton a life-long friend even though it was over 30 years ago when he played for him. He thought he was a “giant of a man” despite the turmoil he had at UK that led to his resignation.

“But the best thing he ever did was address his drinking problem when he took the job at Oklahoma State. He admitted he did have an alcohol problem publicly, which was not easy to do,” Harden said.

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