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Former UK head coach Eddie Sutton dead at age 84; led Wildcats to 32-4 record in 1985-86

NKyTribune staff

Former University of Kentucky basketball coach Eddie Sutton died at the age of 84 on Saturday. Sutton’s family said the Hall of Fame coach died of natural causes at his home near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Dad and Mom treated their players like family and always shared the belief that his teachings went beyond the basketball court,” the family wrote. “He cherished the time he spent at every school and appreciated the support of their loyal fans. He believed they deserved so much credit in the success of his programs.”

Sutton replaced Joe B. Hall as head coach at Kentucky in 1985. Kentucky hired Sutton from Arkansas and he led the Wildcats to a 32-4 record and an Elite Eight appearance in 1985-86.

The Cats’ Pause 1985-86 Yearbook cover shows Eddie Sutton during his first season as head coach at UK.

After four seasons, Sutton announced his resignation in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the basketball program. Sutton compiled an 88-39 mark at Kentucky.

Former UK star Rex Chapman, who played two seasons for Sutton before declaring for the NBA, posted on Twitter that “Eddie Sutton was a fascinating and complicated person. He also was an unbelievable teacher of the game of basketball. I was fortunate and lucky to have learned from him. Grateful.”

Following one year away from coaching, Sutton replaced former Kentucky assistant coach Leonard Hamilton at Oklahoma State, his alma mater. Sutton led the Cowboys for 16 seasons and guided Oklahoma State to the Final Four twice.

He posted a 368-151 record at Oklahoma State and finished out his coaching career as an interim coach at San Francisco, where he notched his 800th victory during the 2007-08 season.

“Oklahoma State University is deeply saddened by the passing of Coach Eddie Sutton,” Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis said. “A Hall of Fame Coach with more than 800 wins, he revived our historic basketball program and will always be revered and loved by the Cowboy family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Sutton family.”

Overall, Sutton posted a 806-326 record in 37 seasons. He began his career at Creighton before moving on to Arkansas, where he guided the Razorbacks to the Final Four in 1978. UK knocked off Arkansas in the Final Four that season en route to the national championship.

Sutton’s 1978 Arkansas squad featured future NBA star Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph, a trio known nationally as the “Triplets.” The Razorbacks defeated Weber State, UCLA and Cal State Fullerton en route to the 1978 Final Four.

Sutton was the first coach to lead four different schools to the NCAA Tournament and was voted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame this spring. He will be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in August.

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