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.
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.
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.