He walked off the basketball court 804 times as a winner. Only four other college coaches in history can match that.
He also took four different schools to the NCAA Tournament. No coach in college basketball history had ever done that.
No question about it, Eddie Sutton – the pride of Bucklin – is one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. And, he learned the game of from one of the best – the legendary Hank Iba at Oklahoma A&M – before going on to become one of NCAA basketball’s most accomplished and successful coaches.
Sutton won a total of 804 games in his 39-year career – finishing with an 804-327 record – and retired No. 5 all-time in the total wins list behind Bob Knight, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp and Jim Phelan.
Ironically, Smith and Rupp are also fellow Kansans and members of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1991, Sutton became the first coach to take four different teams to the NCAA Tournament - Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma State. His teams played in 26 NCAA tournaments and reached the Final Four three different times – once with Arkansas (1978) and twice with Oklahoma State (1995, 2004).
“There is no doubt that Coach Sutton is one of the best to ever coach the game," said Ronnie Brewer, one of the stars of the 1978 Final Four team at Arkansas. “But, he was more than that. He was a great teacher and motivator, both on and off the court.
“He touched a lot of people's lives and made a difference. He helped me with my maturity and was extremely instrumental in my life and teaching me how to be a man.”
Jimmy Dykes, a seldom-used guard on that Arkansas team, echoed Brewer's sentiments.
“We won a conference championship and after the game Coach Sutton went around to every individual player and said, ‘I know you did your best and I'm proud of you,’ ” Dykes said. “He said those same words to Darrell Walker, who was an All-American, and all the other starters, as he said to me, the 12th or 13th man. He always treated us all the same when it came to everything.”
Sutton also played the game - at Oklahoma A&M from 1956-58 - and helped lead the Cowboys in the NCAA Tournament as a senior. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach under Iba at Oklahoma State in 1958 and also coached at Tulsa Central High School before founding the basketball program at College of Southern Idaho, where it became a national contender at the junior college level.
Sutton’s coaching stops at Creighton (1969-74), Arkansas (1975-85), Kentucky (1985-89), Oklahoma State (1990-2006) and San Francisco (2007-08) produced the 804 victories. Sutton was a four-time national coach of the year and Oklahoma State University honored him by naming dedicating Eddie Sutton Court in 2005. His teams won nine regular-season conference titles and Sutton won his 800th game on Feb. 2, 2008, as the head coach of San Francisco University.