Character & Love: Cowboy Ingredients to Success

Two of the main reasons for the Cowboys success this season has nothing to do with jump shots, rebounds, or pressure man to man defense. All of Eddie Sutton's teams have been successful in those various skills to certain degrees. However, it is the special teams that possess that quality. Bob Knight of Texas Tech said one reason he loves this Cowboys team is that they know how to win. They know what to do when it's time to turn a close game into a victory.

        So where does that trait come from? Sutton feels it comes from a strong fiber that the players on this team have.

        "I think you can sum it up with one word, character," said the longtime head coach. "I think when you have character you can accomplish a great deal. The chemistry with this ballclub is as good as we've had with a team at Oklahoma State."

        This team is so rewarding for Sutton. Some of his recent teams lacked that kind of bond. There were players that strayed from the path, let their focus wander away from basketball to some of the pursuits that many college students have. Pursuits like partying and chasing girlfriends. This team truly cares about winning. It makes it fun for everybody including the head coach.

        "Winning is important and coaching is a great occupation when you win and it isn't worth a damn when you lose," said Sutton. " I think the greatest reward a coach has is knowing that your program, not just the coaches, but the player's teammates, the staff, academic area, and your fans if they've had a positive impact on a player's life. Something happened to me yesterday, and it's happened a lot of times through the years. Here we were with everybody so excited down on the floor and Tony Allen came up to me and threw his arms around me and said, 'Coach, I love you.' That's what coaching is all about because we know we've helped Tony mature and I'm talking about the whole OSU basketball family."

        "I was just happy about everything that was going on after the game," said Allen of the show of affection. "I looked at him and remembered how far we'd come from all the yelling and coaching that he does at practice, how all the hard work had paid off. I just had to tell him I love him. It just kind of hit me in the heart and I had to tell him."

        Allen is not the only player with that love and respect for Coach Sutton. It runs completely through the squad. It's truly a tie that binds this team. It's something extra other teams don't have in crunch time, the kind that they will experience in the NCAA Tournament. It's what causes point guard John Lucas to look forward to every practice, every meeting, every time he and his teammates and the coaches gather..

        "I love every minute of it, and he's helped me in so many ways," said Lucas of his relationship with Sutton. "I can't thank him enough. I just play hard every minute and that's my way of thanking him for taking a chance on me and bringing me in to this situation that I'm in. I'm around the best guys I've been around my whole entire life. The coaching staff too, Coach Sutton is like a second father to me. He really helped me with my defense. He made me more of a player on and off the floor."

        "He's always been behind me whether I played good or played bad," said forward Ivan McFarlin, who came in as a partial qualifier and graduated in three and a half years. "When you play for a coach that has had so many wins I think that you have to respect him for what he's done. He's a teacher of the game. It's a real honor to play for him and have him for a coach."

        "Coach Sutton is an inspiration," said emerging star Joey Graham. " He is a father figure. He's a teacher. He has so much to teach and we have so much to learn. When I came here, my first year sitting out, I just tried to sit there and absorb everything so that when my time came this year to play I would be ready to step up. He has taught me so much and I'm still learning. He is such a great man and he's given so much to so many others."

        It's nice when players have that respect, confidence, and love for their coach. It is a bond that can move mountains, one that can beat Texas three times in a season, one that can even be the major reason a team wins a national championship

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