Sutton takes leave of absence; cited with DUI
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Eddie Sutton might have coached his last game, a 35-year career potentially ending six victories short of 800 (see inset) because of a traffic accident in which he was injured and cited for driving under the influence.
Even though Eddie Sutton is out on medical leave, whatever wins and losses that Sean Sutton accrues for the remainder of this season will count on his father's record.
The NCAA rule states that each individual school may decide beforehand how the game's results will count. Oklahoma State already has opted to have the wins count for Eddie Sutton.
From the NCAA Division I Manual:
220.127.116.11 -- Determination of Head Coach at an Institution. In order for a coach to be credited with wins, losses or ties, that individual must be designated as the institution's head coach for the entire sports season. Individuals serving on an advisory or preseason basis may not be credited with the wins, losses or ties. If the head coach is not present at a contest due to illness or other unexpected circumstances, or otherwise is unable to complete the sports season, it is up to the institution to determine whether the win, loss or tie for that contest(s) shall be credited to the head coach or to an interim or assistant coach, as determined by the institution prior to the contest(s).
Oklahoma State announced Monday that the 69-year-old Sutton would take a medical leave and that Sean Sutton, his son and designated heir apparent, will finish this season as coach. The school said no decision had been made on who will coach next season.
Eddie Sutton said in a statement released by the university that he nearly took medical leave after a Feb. 4 trip to Kansas State because of chronic back pain that was "making it very difficult to coach."
"After Friday's events, I know it is best to go on medical leave the remainder of the season to address my future health," he said. "It is very difficult to step away from the team. But I know they are in great hands."
Under Oklahoma law, driving under the influence can include a range of substances, including prescription painkillers or alcohol. The university said it would not comment on the DUI citation because of privacy and legal reasons.
In their first game since the elder Sutton stepped aside, the Cowboys lost 64-49 to No. 22 Kansas on Monday night.
|20-win seasons||25||Rank: T-5|
|NCAA appearances||26||Rank: T-3|
Fans held up signs reading "We Miss Eddie" and "Get Well Eddie," and a brief "Eddie! Eddie!" chant broke out in one section of seats in the final minutes.
The Cowboys played the Jayhawks close for about 30 minutes, before Kansas pulled away.
"I think it helped us a lot because we were stressing, 'Do this for coach Sutton,' " Oklahoma State freshman Terrel Harris said. "We just felt like we had to do it for him. We thought this win would really make him feel good, make him feel better."
Forward Torre Johnson said, "It's bringing us together instead of pulling us apart, him not being here."
Sutton spent the night in the hospital with a head injury following Friday's accident in Stillwater.
Witnesses described Sutton's sports utility vehicle as driving dangerously and erratically, forcing cars to swerve out of the way before he hit another SUV from behind at about 60 mph, according to police reports released Monday.
The driver of the other SUV received minor injuries and was released at the scene.
One witness at the accident scene told police that Sutton seemed confused, responded angrily to questions and had a "slight fruity odor" on his breath.
The same witness reported seeing a bottle of prescription hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller, on the seat of Sutton's SUV.
Stillwater police cited Sutton after the accident but did not jail him on a complaint of driving under the influence because of a lack of physical evidence, the city's police chief said Monday.
Witnesses told police that shortly before the accident, Sutton was unsteady on his feet and struck his head after falling in the parking lot of Gallagher-Iba Arena before entering his vehicle. Sutton refused an ambulance at that scene and insisted on driving, police reports show.
The results of blood tests -- which could take six to eight weeks to receive -- will show whether the coach was driving under the influence, Stillwater Chief Norman McNickle said. Sutton was not given a field sobriety test at the time because he needed medical treatment, he said.
Police also filed complaints against Sutton for speeding and crossing the center line.
When Sutton came to his alma mater in 1990, he acknowledged he had undergone treatment for a drinking problem and said "I've dealt with it."
In Monday's statement, Sutton said he had been under a tremendous amount of stress because of "my deteriorating physical condition and other issues."
Sutton has weathered other tough times to become the fifth winningest men's coach in Division I history, trailing only Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876), Bob Knight (866) and Jim Phelan (830).
"I hope he's back next year. I mean this sincerely," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I've never coached against a better coach than Eddie Sutton."
Sutton resigned in 1989 from a Kentucky program placed on four years' probation. In 2001, a plane crash killed two Oklahoma State basketball players and six team staffers.
The Cowboys have advanced to postseason play 14 times in 15 years under Sutton, including 13 NCAA Tournament appearances. He took the Cowboys to the Final Four in 1995 and 2004. He also reached the Final Four with Arkansas.
After last season, there was much speculation about whether Sutton would retire. Instead of stepping aside, he stayed on and his son became his replacement in waiting, though no specific timetable was given for the change of power.
After Monday's loss, the Cowboys dropped to 13-12 and 3-8 in the Big 12 with five regular-season games left. Sutton recently criticized his team's toughness, calling it the "softest team in 16 years that I have ever coached."
Sutton spoke to players twice Sunday, assistant coach James Dickey said during the Big 12 coaches conference call Monday.
"I'm sure they were disappointed," Dickey said. "As you can imagine, the players listened intently. But they all wished him the best, told him they loved him. He told them he loved them, to stay on the books and play hard and do their best."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.