The finalists for the 2017 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame were released this morning in New Orleans in conjunction with the NBA All-Star weekend. I have a disagreement with that for one. The inductees will be announced at the NCAA Final Four.
Former Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Creighton, Kentucky, San Francisco, and College of Southern Idaho basketball head coach Eddie Sutton was not on the list. But he was represented by a former player and a prominent assistant coach that he mentored into one of the finest college basketball coaches in America. While Sutton isn't on the list, former Sutton assistant at Oklahoma State and now Kansas head coach Bill Self made it and so did Sutton's former standout at Arkansas, Sidney Moncrief.
Moncrief, who was one of Sutton's all-time best and an All-American at Arkansas before going on to a stellar NBA career, primarily with the Milwaukee Bucks, has said many times that Sutton was the primary man responsible for his development as a basketball player.
Self was at Oklahoma State when Sutton came home to his alma mater to take over as head coach for Leonard Hamilton. Self, also a former Oklahoma State player and graduate of the school, soaked up Sutton's philosophy and coaching style like a sponge adding it to what he had learned as a graduate assistant for another outstanding coach in Larry Brown.
Self later departed for the head coaching job at Oral Roberts and moved right on to Tulsa, then to Illinois, before landing at Kansas and writing what looks like his Hall of Fame résumé with the finishing touches including a national championship.
There are 14 finalists for the Hall of Fame for 2017 and they also include Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey, former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, Notre Dame women's coach Mufft McGraw, NBA coach and former player Rudy Tomjanovich, standout women's player at UConn Rebecca Lobo, former NBA players Tracy McGrady, Chris Webber and Tim Hardaway, but no Eddie Sutton.
I hate to say it, but Oklahoma State fans, former players, fellow coaches and many others that have pulled so hard and protested, wished, wrote letters, used social media, and prayed that the powers to be would put Sutton in the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and do it before we lose the iconic coach that may have had issues at Kentucky but built Arkansas and rebuilt Oklahoma State into national powers and had such a positive influence on so many players and coaches, not to mention children and fans, people he would just read about their problems and would reach out and help.
The reality is there are people in the process that don't know the Eddie Sutton so many of us do. They are people that control this avenue to the Hall of Fame and they don't share our exuberance over Eddie Sutton. It's becoming more of a reality that all of the work of so many supporters is falling on deaf or just unwilling ears and conscience. As a result, I'm becoming convinced that our reality is that Eddie Sutton lives in our Oklahoma State Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, but won't be in Springfield for some time, if ever. That is a shame.