Legendary college basketball coach Eddie Sutton, who won more than 800 games and was the first coach to bring four different schools to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, died on Saturday from natural causes, his family said in a statement. He was 84 years old.
Sutton died at his home in South Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was surrounded by family members, according to the statement.
Less than two months ago, Sutton was informed that he would be a member of the 2020 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In their statement, the Sutton family said that their inclusion in the Hall "was an honor and homage to the great players he coached and the excellent technical assistants who worked for him". Sutton had been a finalist on six previous occasions.
It will be introduced posthumously in August, as well as Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.
Sutton trained basketball for 50 years at six different colleges and a high school, but he is best known for a successful run in his alma mater in Oklahoma and a controversial position in Kentucky.
He made it to the quarter-finals three times, and during his 37 seasons training at Division I tier I, Sutton ended a season below 0.5500 just twice: his last season in Kentucky and during a half season in San Francisco . He is still in the top 25 of all time in wins with 806.
Kentucky signed Sutton from Arkansas for the 1985-86 season, and led the Wildcats to a 32-4 record and an appearance at Elite Eight. But after just four seasons, Sutton announced his resignation in the middle of an NCAA investigation into the basketball program.
In October 1988, the NCAA announced 18 charges against the basketball program, after a Los Angeles Daily News report that Emery Worldwide airfreight workers found $ 1,000 in a package allegedly sent by Kentucky assistant Dwane Casey to Kentucky recruit father Chris Mills.
The NCAA granted Kentucky a two-year ban in the postseason and prevented it from being shown on live television during the 1989-90 season. Casey was put on NCAA parole for five years, and Mills was found ineligible.
Sutton and Casey maintained their innocence.
"When it happened, it was an installation," Sutton told the Kansas City Star in 2011. "Who would send money like that? And does an overnight package somehow open? You need a crowbar to open these things."
Sutton returned to Oklahoma from 1990 and immediately brought winning ways back to Stillwater. During their 16 seasons at Cowboys, they reached 13 NCAA tournaments, six Sweet 16, three Elite Eights and four finals in 1995 and 2004.
In 2005, the school announced that the court at the Gallagher-Iba Arena would be named Eddie Sutton Court.
"It means a lot," said Sutton at the time. "It is a great honor."
In a tweet, Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis noted that Sutton "has revived our historic basketball program and will always be revered and loved by the # Cowboy Family."
#okstate is deeply saddened by the death of trainer Eddie Sutton. Hall of Fame coach with more than 800 wins, he has revived our historic basketball program and will always be revered and loved by #CowboyFamily. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Sutton family. pic.twitter.com/gHA6NDVZoX
– Burns Hargis (@burnshargis) May 24, 2020
Sutton announced his retirement in 2006, three months after taking a leave of absence after a car accident in which he was injured and cited for driving under the influence. Sutton, who admitted that he lived with alcoholism, was succeeded by his son Sean.
"People today in our country know a lot more about alcoholism, but there are still people who don't know what the disease is, how it affects someone as a person," Sutton said at his press conference. "It is a very slow suicide if you drink."
Former NBA player Rex Chapman, who played Sutton in Kentucky, called him "an unbelievable basketball game teacher" in a tribute posted on Twitter.
"I was lucky to have learned from him," wrote Chapman.
Eddie Sutton was a fascinating and complicated person. He was also an unbelievable teacher at the basketball game. I was lucky to have learned from him. Thankful.
Hall. Of. Famer.
Thank you, Coach Ed.
– Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) May 24, 2020
Sutton threw his college ball in Oklahoma State under Henry Iba and started his career as an assistant for a season after graduating. After several seasons training high school basketball in Tulsa, Sutton helped found the men's basketball program at the College of Southern Idaho – then called Southern Idaho Junior College – in 1967.
Sutton moved to Creighton for five seasons, arriving at the NCAA tournament in 1974. He spent 11 seasons in Arkansas, making an appearance in the Final Four in 1978 and an appearance in the Elite Eight the following season. He did the NCAA tournament in his final nine seasons with the Razorbacks.
Sutton's best moment in Arkansas came on February 12, 1984, when his unrated Razorbacks defeated Michael Jordan and the undefeated North Carolina champion 65-64. The game was televised nationally by NBC and featured the caption of broadcaster Dick Enberg calling the celebration "Pandemonium in Pine Bluff!" That game remains the only time in Arkansas basketball history when the Razorbacks defeated the AP's # 1 team.
Sutton was chosen for the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
Sutton's wife, Patsy, died in January 2013; they had been married for 54 years. He leaves his three children and their families, including nine grandchildren. Scott Sutton has been the coach of Oral Roberts for 18 years and is the most awarded basketball coach in history. He is currently a technical assistant to the state of Oklahoma. Sean Sutton, who coached Oklahoma for two seasons after his father stepped down, is now part of the Texas Tech technical team.
ESPN statistics and information contributed to this report.