One-on-One With Sean Sutton - Part 2

Go Pokes had the chance to sit down and visit with Cowboy head basketball coach Sean Sutton this past weekend. The interview included topics as how much pressure does he feel to live up to the achievements of his dad, and what will be the difference in a Sean Sutton-coached team versus an Eddie Sutton-coached squad. Here's the second of three installments that we'll run this week.

Go Pokes: Do you think you will feel any pressure to live up to the achievements of your dad?
Sutton: I've always felt that pressure. But the most pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself because I've always been driven to be successful. When I came back to Oklahoma State to coach (in 1994) I really wanted my dad to have an opportunity to coach in another Final Four and to hopefully win a national championship. So every day I was motivated by that. A lot of times you create your own pressure, and you have your own set of expectations. There's nobody who feels any more strongly or has any more passion for this school or this program than myself. I think the pressure will come from within me.
Obviously, there are huge expectations for this program every year and it's only natural that people are going to try to make comparsions between me and my dad. I don't think it's ever easy to replace a legendary figure. It's not an easy thing to do, but at the same time I knew that going in. Before I decided to accept this job I thought through all that stuff and in the end I was not going to let pressure enter the equation. That's going to be there regardless of where you coach. Every coach, regardless of whether it's high school, college or the NBA, we're always going to be under a tremendous amount of pressure and the bottom line is you have to win basketball games. The two most important things (at OSU) are our guys graduate, and do well in school, and that we operate within NCAA rules and continue to represent this program on and off the court and win games. That's the bottom line. If we do that than we're going to be successful, and the people are going to be happy.

Go Pokes: Usually when someone is named head coach at a major college there's a big news conference, but that didn't happen for you earlier this year. Were you disappointed?
Sutton: No. I had a press conference a couple years ago when they made the decision to promote me to head coach designate, and that was good enough. Publicity and that sort of thing is not something that I've driven by. I'd much rather be around our players or recruiting, and trying to help this program. Something like that's just not that big a deal to me.

Go Pokes: What difference will the average basketball fan notice from a Sean Sutton-coached basketball team as compared to an Eddie Sutton-coached basketball team?
Sutton: I hope there won't be a whole bunch. I hope people turn on the TV and say, ‘There's Oklahoma State and they're doing their thing.' I hope there are a lot of similarities; if there is that means we're playing well and probably winning agood portion of our games. The system that he's used through the years, and he's modified it and adjusted to the rule changes to the game, and adjusted to the personality of kids today, has always been to play good hard-nosed, tough man-to-man defense, make sure you get good shots, take care of the basketball, don't beat yourself, rebound the ball at both ends, and then play hard and play as a team.
Honestly, the most important thing is you have to adjust to your personnel. You can't coach every team the same, and you can't coach every player the same. I think the most important thing you can have is a relationship with your players. If they really know that you care about them, that you love ‘em, and you have their best interest in heart, than I think they'll be willing to lay it all on the line for you. Those are the type of relationships we've had in the past here, and those are the type of relationships we're going to have in the future. There are only two things that might be a little bit different. We might play just a little bit faster, maybe shoot the ball a little bit quicker at times, and we may press a little bit more. It wasn't until the late ‘90s that we really changed our philosophy offensively in terms of trying to run, (and) create opportunities in transition. We got to where we were one of the best programs in the country in terms of getting up and down the court and scoring quickly in transition, and that will continue. We may even try to gear it up one more notch if we can. Then he's always believed in tough half-court, man-to-man defense. We may pick up a little bit further, full court, and apply pressure 94 feet sometimes and then three-quarters court others. When there's constanct pressure and when you do press it allows you to play more players. The thing you have go guage is how many turnovers and how much fatigue are you causing the other team versus easy baskets you're giving up. One of the reasons he didn't like to press, and I agree with this, is a lot of times you have a tendency to give up some easy baskets, and that always drove him crazy. I don't like it as well but when you press that's going to happen some. I'm not opposed to playing zone in the right situation against certain teams where he just really wasn't going to. I believe some of that goes back to (his playing for) Mr. Iba. Obviously he's made some changes over the years but he never really liked playing zone, whereas in the right circumstance, against a team that is maybe not a great outside shooting team, I'd be open to playing some.

Go Pokes: You've said numerous times that he'll be welcome to be around the team any time he wants. How much do you think he'll be around this season?
Sutton: It'll be interesting to see. Right now he's really happy. He probably feels as well as he's felt in the last five to seven years, (and) he looks great. I think as the basketball season gets closer that he's going to miss it just like any person would that's done it as long as he's done it. But that will be his decision. He may feel like he needs to stay away for a while ... but he's always going to be welcome. One of the things he really enjoyed when he first got back here was Mr. Iba coming to practice, being there every day for his first three years, and I think himself, Bill Self and Rob Evans really enjoyed those times. I think it helped our team because he had such a brilliant mind concerning the game of basketball that he was able to help them and help our team. I think it will be extremely valuable to have him there to give his input to the staff when he sees something, but it's going to be his decision.

Click here to read the first part of our interview with Sean Sutton: One-on-One with Sean Sutton-Part 1.

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