STILLWATER — Eddie Sutton, Oklahoma A&M graduate of 1958 and coach of two Final Four Oklahoma State men’s basketball teams, will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in the Class of 2020.
Sutton’s enshrinement was first reported Friday afternoon by the Tulsa World.
The Hall of Fame’s official announcement of the 2020 class will be at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN. The other finalists include Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tamika Catchings, Tim Duncan, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens and Rudy Tomjanovich.
“Above everything else, he’s one of the dearest friends I have and has been for all of these years since he came to Oklahoma State,” said Tom Dirato, former broadcaster for the OSU men’s basketball team. “We shared a lot together over the years and some of that has been the frustration of him not getting in for six years or so. There is a point and a frustration the Sutton family had of why wasn’t he in before now, because we all agree nationally that he should have been in long before now. But, that doesn’t diminish the fact that he’s in.
“That’s a relief to the family and certainly the boys who have been with him since the get-go. They’re relieved and happy for him. I just wish this would have happened before his health became so bad. He would have enjoyed it had it happened several years ago. It’s not that he can’t enjoy it now, because I’m sure he’ll understand it.”
Dirato hosted the Eddie Sutton Show on TV during the famed coach’s tenure at OSU. Since Sutton’s resignation following the 2006 season, Dirato has remained a friend of the family, so Friday’s news was extra special for him.
“He’s as good of a man as I’ve ever been around,” Dirato said. “People who didn’t see him on a daily basis didn’t understand what kind of a good person he is still. It’s good to see something good happen to a very good person. I’m very proud that I can call him a friend.”
Several of Sutton’s former players from the 1995 Final Four team returned to Stillwater for the Feb. 15 game against Texas Tech to honor Sutton and that team. Sutton was named a finalist the day before, and his former players spoke in his defense of being snubbed the previous six times.
Two-time Big Eight Player of the Year and two-time All-American center Bryant Reeves – better known as Big Country to Oklahoma State fans – was happy to come to his former coach’s defense that afternoon.
“I’ve had that feeling, what seven times now, that this is the year,” Reeves said. “He should have been in the first go around. … I really hope they do it this year, because he deserves it. I would love for it to happen this year.”
Randy Rutherford, another Cowboy on the 1995 Final Four team, said Sutton was already a hall of fame coach in his mind.
“I think we want it more for him than he wants it,” Rutherford said. “I think a lot of our fans and people who haven’t gotten to know him over the decades to see what kind of man he is and how he’s helped a lot of young men become good men want him in.”
Sutton, who started his coaching career at Tulsa Central, made stops at the University of Southern Idaho, Creighton, Arkansas and Kentucky before being welcomed to Oklahoma State in 1990.
During Sutton’s first season at the helm, OSU ended an eight-year drought to enter the NCAA Tournament. He ended up making 13 trips to the Big Dance in 17 years.
He was the first coach to take four different schools to the NCAA Tournament. That feat was later matched by Lefty Driesell – who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018 – and Jim Harrick.
At OSU, Sutton took his first team to a 24-8 record – just a year after the Cowboys went 17-14 under former coach Leonard Hamilton, who’s gone on to have a long and successful career coaching at Florida State.
In Sutton’s fifth year at OSU, the Cowboys advanced to their first Final Four in 44 years. The previous Final Four appearance was 1951 when Sutton was a 15-year-old teenager.
Nine years after the magical 1995 season, the Cowboys returned to the Final Four after winning the Big 12 Conference. The 2003-04 squad finished 31-4.
Sutton coached two more years at OSU before resigning. He became the interim coach at San Francisco during the 2007-08 season. Sutton went 6-13 that year, but those six wins pushed him further past the 800-win plateau.
When he retired, Sutton had amassed 806 career wins with a winning percentage of .712. He ranks 11th on the all-time wins list for Division I men’s basketball coaches.
Saturday morning, the official announcement will be made, electing Sutton into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I know the Oklahoma State family is relieved,” Dirato said. “My goodness, it’s been a tussle all of these years trying to understand why he wasn’t in.”