Fans and players of former Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton got a chance to show their appreciation for the legendary Razorback coach this weekend and it clearly warmed his heart.
Sutton, 260-75 as the Arkansas head coach from 1974-1985, was honored with a reception before the Razorbacks’ 84-72 win over Missouri Saturday night at Bud Walton Arena.
He was later treated to a banner unfurled in his honor at halftime with nearly 100 former players, coaches, staff members and family behind him on the court.
“It is always great to get back here in beautiful Arkansas and the University,” Sutton said during the ceremony. “I had so many wonderful experiences here with a lot of these guys standing behind me.”
Some of those nearly 100 coaches, players and staff behind him were centers Scott Hastings, Joe Kleine and Daryl Saulsberry, forwards Jim Counce, Greg Skulman, Charles Balentine, Stefan Moore, Scott Horrell, John Snively and Leroy Sutton and guards Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer, U.S. Reed, Allie Freeman, Ricky Norton, Mike Young and Eugene Nash.
Former Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson and former Razorback assistant coach Pat Foster was also in attendance along with former Razorback football and basketball player and football head coach Houston Nutt as well as former Razorback athletic director Frank Broyles.
“I have so much fun seeing so many of my players,” Sutton said. “They told me stories that I had never heard before. They haven’t changed. I had a ball talking to all of them.
“It means a great deal to me that so many of them are here. There were a lot of them that I hadn’t seen in a long time.”
Hastings, who is now the color commentator for the Denver Nuggets after a long NBA career, was pleased with the ceremony and the gathering of his former teammates.
“I think we were all excited for Coach Sutton and his family and it was great to see some of the guys that I hadn't seen in a long time,” Hastings said.
“We had a great time talking and going over old stories. We couldn’t agree on whether something happen in 1981 or 1984, or what happened at the Phi Delt house, but we got a big kick out of being together and telling those stories.
“The only difference is that our hair is grayer, we are fatter and we used to pull muscles running out there on the court and now we pull them laughing.”
Hastings stressed that Sutton was more than just a coach.
“I was very fortunate that I had a dad, a step dad and I guess a third dad in Coach Sutton,” Hastings said. “He made a difference in so many lives.
“I asked him one time if he ever thought about coaching in the NBA and he said that he got an offer to do so, but he felt like he would touch more lives my staying in college.
“He sure made a difference in mine and a guy like Darrell. We are forever thankful.”
Walker also went from Arkansas to the NBA and had a very successful career while staying in touch with Sutton.
“Coach means the world to me,” Walker said. “We have had a unique relationship. Most people thought that it was a bad relationship, but it was actually great when I was up there and got even better when I left.
“I talk to him on a consistent basis and it was good to see him get his due.”
Walker lauded Arkansas Director of Athletics Jeff Long for the weekend that honored Sutton.
“I thought the ceremony was just great,” Walker said. “I know that he was very, very happy about it, his family was very happy about it and Jeff Long and the guys at Arkansas really put on something nice.
“It was good that all the players showed up and then we got a chance to spend a lot of time with Coach after the game at the Chancellor Hotel and it was really fun.
“A lot of us got a chance to sit and talk all night, a lot of us haven’t seen each other in a long time and that was just really neat. He loved it and we loved it.”
Kleine played for Notre Dame as a freshman before transferring to finish his college career under Sutton and going on to a long NBA career as well.
“It was a great night honoring a great man and coach,” Kleine said. “He means so much to all of us. He was there always in so many ways when we needed him.
“He always told us what we needed to hear whether we liked it or not, but he always told us he loved us, we all trusted him.”
Balentine hit one of the most famous shots in Razorback history when he hit a baseline jumper take down Michael Jordan and No.1 North Carolina 65-64 on Pine Bluff back on Feb. 12, 1984.
“It was a long time coming and a great time to have Coach Sutton honored and to see all of the former players,” Balentine said. “It was a very emotional time, especially at the event before the basketball game, and it is something that I will always treasure.”
Balentine has remained close with Sutton throughout the years.
“It was one of those things where Coach Sutton always played that second father to us, a teacher, a coach and someone who helped us grow as men and go on to be successful in life.
“That got even stronger after our basketball careers were over than when we were there. He was a great coach, is a great man and is someone that we will all love and respect forever.”
Sutton - 806-326 in his overall coaching career – was lauded by current Razorback coach Mike Anderson.
“Without Coach Sutton, I wouldn't be sitting in this seat today,” Anderson said. “What he did for this program. You think about his years, the players that went through here, the lives he's touched.
“He put Arkansas basketball on the national map. The Final Four. Great players. The brand of Razorback basketball, hard-nosed, tenacious defensively, get after you. He established all that.
“When you talk about the players that he had, the tradition that has taken place, being in this facility, Bud Walton Arena from Barnhill. It was sellout after sellout. There was a passion. He created that passion for basketball in the state of Arkansas and I guess pretty much put the name of Arkansas basketball out in the world.
“The coaches that followed can appreciate that. I'm certainly excited for him to be honored in that way. He's a great man, great coach and a very good person.”
Sutton led Arkansas to five Southwest Conference championships, nine NCAA Tournament appearances and the 1978 Final Four with his legendary Triplets of Brewer, Moncrief and Marvin Delph.
The program took off to new heights when the first Razorback basketball game was regionally televised by KATV and Sutton’s Arkansas squad routed Houston 92-47 at Barnhill Arena in its SWC opener.
Moncrief – then a freshman – had 17 points, Daryll Saulsberry 16, Robert Birden 15, Delph 14 and Charles Terry 10.
During Sutton’s time as head coach at Arkansas, Barnhill Arena expanded from 5,200 to 9,000 seats was routinely sold out.
He also coached at Southern Idaho, Creighton, Kentucky and Oklahoma State before finishing his career at San Francisco, where took over for Jesse Evans as the interim coach.
That stint – where he went 6-13 - allowed him to get over 800 wins in his career. He is one of only eight college head coaches to have ever accomplished that feat.
“All you need to know about him as a coach is that he won over 800 games,” Hastings said. “Not many guys can say that and he certainly touched way more lives than that.”
Eddie Sutton and his family and former players and staff Call The Hogs.
Banners honoring Arkansas coaches Nolan Richardson and Eddie Sutton.
Sutton gets a framed replica of his banner.