This Was Eddie Sutton's Best Move

You don't last in the coaching business for 45 years - 36 years at the Division I level - without making a lot more right moves than wrong ones. When you add up Eddie Sutton's superlative coaching record and that he won 798 out of 1,113 games, a whopping .717 success rate, that means even more right moves were made by arguably the most popular individual in Oklahoma State athletic history.

Sutton's final right move won't result in any added wins to his coaching record. In fact it will keep him from accomplishing a now admitted goal of winning 800 games. This move likely won't launch him into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. By most, this final move by Sutton as a college head coach will go down as a bittersweet day for the majority of his legion of fans.

For me, and quite possibly for his successor and son Sean, this move was every bit as spectacular as a Desmond Mason full court steal and slam dunk. It's as courageous as Bryant Reeves buzzer beater against Missouri. It is as powerful as any post move by Byron Houston.

During his resignation address Sutton spoke of family, from wife Patsy to sons Sean, Scott and Steve, and to his nine grandchildren. He said family was the most important aspect of life to a man. This move proved that statement was not lip service, but something that is really in Eddie Sutton's heart.

After the February accident and the subsequent charges being filed for aggravated drunk driving along with additional traffic charges, Sutton left the program in a rough state and Sean took over and actually improved the situation and the team's performance. It would be almost impossible for most fathers to take this role away from a loyal son, who underfire proved his ability to conduct the program.

Sutton's move also shows he is true to his word when he says that Oklahoma State University means as much to him as it does anybody. During his retirement press conference he also answered a direct question by saying he had a choice whether he coached again or not. That is true in some ways and untrue in others. Sutton could have coached, but it would not have been at Oklahoma State.

His choice was to make this a healing move by retiring, or rip the OSU family apart by fighting superiors on the issue. It would have been a move that probably would have led to a family feud that would have made Sean's official start as head coach much more difficult. David Schmidly is the president and CEO of Oklahoma State University. Mike Holder is the vice president for athletics and athletics director. The power they enjoy is by entitlement. The power Eddie Suton enjoys and always will is by the people. Governments in Third World countries have been overturned by similar reprisals. By going to the fans Sutton could have created bedlam without the Sooners. He did not.

Oklahoma State fans find it easy to forgive their favorite son for his off the court transgression. His coaching accomplishments are such a source of pride that it becomes easy to forgive because he has delivered so many victories that we'll never forget. On top of that Sutton has been a gentleman and an ambassador for OSU of the highest order.

Only those very close to him know how many nice gestures in the forms of letters, gifts and a kind word he has provided to Cowboy fans, people he knows, and many he has never met. He was the "Rock of Gibralter" for the school, the community and even the state in the days following the plane tragedy that saw 10 members of the program lose their lives on the way back from a road trip to Colorado.

Sutton has had a lasting positive impression on the majority of his players, proving many times that he is their coach and friend for life. A good example is his assistance to former Cowboy great Byron Houston following his difficulties with addiction and mental health problems. Houston is finishing his degree and put his life back in order with the help of Sutton and others.

You have to imagine that part of any Sutton sermon - before, after or at halftime of a game - his philosophy imparted on players and his assistant coaches during their time with him or after they leave is never to quit. In the end it's ironic that knowing exactly when to quit proved to be one of his greatest and most noble moves of his coaching career, and thus ensuring Sean the opportunity to have the same success or even greater success than he enjoyed.

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