Scott Sutton, Ninth Year, Oklahoma State

Only time will tell, but there's no doubt that the similarities between Bill Self and Scott Sutton are ironic. Self was a protégé of Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton. Of course, Scott is the youngest son of the legendary coach and has borrowed a few notes from Dad as well.
Scott Sutton enters his ninth season as head coach at Oral Roberts University in the midst of ORU’s most successful stretch in nearly 30 years. Over the past three seasons, ORU has won 69 games, captured three Mid-Continent Conference regular-season titles, won consecutive Mid-Con Tournament titles, and played in two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT.

Hired as an administrative assistant by former ORU head coach Bill Self prior to the 1995-96 season, Sutton’s early ORU career has often been compared with Self’s. But the current ORU boss has clearly made a name for himself. Sutton was honored as the NABC District 12 co-Coach of the Year for 2004-05, sharing the award with his father, Oklahoma State’s legendary Eddie Sutton.

Last season, Sutton handed his teacher a stunning defeat when the Golden Eagles handed Self’s third-ranked Jayhawks a 76-71 setback at Allen Fieldhouse in mid-November.

With the second-longest coaching tenure in ORU history, Sutton ranks second on the school’s all-time victories list with 144. Former ORU coach Ken Trickey set school records with 214 career wins in 11 seasons spread out over two campaigns. In seven seasons at ORU, Sutton is 144-102 (.585). Since the start of the 2001-02 season, Sutton has guided the Golden Eagles to a 121-66 (.647) mark. During that same span, ORU has finished either first or second in the Mid-Con standings five times.

Under Sutton’s leadership ORU’s basketball revival continued during the 2006-07 season. With seniors Caleb Green and Ken Tutt playing their last season for the Golden Eagles, ORU won 23 games, captured the Mid-Con regular-season and tournament titles, and played in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.

Green capped his record-setting career with his third straight Mid-Con Player of the Year, and also became the conference’s all-time leader in points and rebounds.

Tutt, always the Robin to Green’s Batman, also went out in style, albeit in a more dramatic fashion. Tutt hit the game-winning shot with 31 seconds left in ORU’s win over Oakland in the Mid-Con title game, the seventh game-winning shot of his clutch career.

It was another up-and-down season, one which began with the muchcelebrated win at Kansas, but ended with a disappointing loss to Washington State in the NCAA Tournament first round. For the second straight year ORU was one of the underdog favorites, but the Golden Eagles couldn’t make a halftime lead hold up against the Pac-10 champions.

Sutton led ORU to 20 wins for the third straight season in 2006-07, the second longest such streak in school history.

The 2005-06 season saw Sutton and the Golden Eagles finally reach their ultimate goal of advancing to the NCAA Tournament, one season after suffering a heartbreaking defeat in the Mid-Con championship game. But while the season ended on a high note, it was one of Sutton’s most challenging years.

A veteran team, one which featured just a single newcomer, was for the third time in four years the consensus pick to capture the Mid-Con crown and advance into the post season. Some publications boldly predicted a Sweet 16 appearance for the Golden Eagles, and for the first time recent memory, ORU received votes in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll.

But a rash of injuries, combined with a murderous non-conference schedule which featured eight consecutive road games over 24 days in December and early January, contributed to a slow start. With only 10 scholarship players available at the start of the year due to red-shirts and four-year transfers, ORU was forced to play even more shorthanded for much of the non-conference season when guards Jonathan Bluitt, Andrew Meloy and Chris Riouse went down with injuries. The trio combined to miss 11 games during December’s rugged stretch. Following a loss at Minnesota on Dec. 31st, the undermanned Golden Eagles stood on the brink of Mid-Con play with a 5-7 record.

“We realized we put the team in a tough spot with such a tough schedule in December,” said Sutton. “The injuries only made it tougher. After the nonconference season ended, we tried to stay positive with the guys. We overcame a lot of adversity and never lost our focus. It toughened us up. Winning our first two conference games at the end of that road swing really set the tone for the rest of the season.”

Through it all, Sutton held the Golden Eagles together, reminding them that their goals were still reachable with a strong conference season. ORU started league play well, winning their first three conference games. But the injury bugstruck again, when two-time all-conference shooting guard Ken Tutt suffered a foot fracture and was forced to miss 10 games.

Again, Sutton kept the Golden Eagles focused. ORU was 8-2 in Tutt’s absence, and in position to win the regular-season title. The Golden Eagles closed with three straight league victories following Tutt’s return, and earned a share of their second straight Mid-Con regular-season crown.

Tutt led the way for the Golden Eagles in the Mid-Con Tournament, earning MVP honors after scoring 27 points in the championship game. After enduring a shocking loss to seventh-seeded Oakland in the Mid-Con finals one year earlier, Sutton said the Golden Eagles’ 85-72 win over Chicago State last year gave him peace.

”I knew,” said Sutton in the post-game press conference, “that winning was the only way I could ever get over that loss.”

He still believes that today.

“ I think we’re past that now, but the loss to Oakland does still bother me some,“ he said. “Although defeating Chicago State helped erase a lot of the bad memories.”

After a loss to No. 1 seed Memphis in the NCAA Tournament first round, ORU finished the 2005-06 season with a 21-12 record, giving the Golden Eagles backto-back 20-win season for the first time since the mid-1970s.

Though 2004-05 was a success by anyone’s standards, it was also bittersweet. Sutton led the Golden Eagles to 25 wins, the Mid-Con regular-season title and several big victories. ORU won its second straight Mayor’s Cup game with a record setting rout of Tulsa. The Golden Eagles also knocked off Georgetown in the Rainbow Classic, Southwest Missouri State in the ESPN Bracket Buster and captured road wins at St. Louis and Valparaiso, the first by the Golden Eagles on the Crusaders’ home court.

But ORU’s upset loss to Oakland in the Mid-Con Tournament finals prevented 2004-05 from being everything the Golden Eagles believed it would be when the season began with an 8-0 start. Despite the crushing loss, ORU was rewarded with an invitation to the NIT, the program’s first post-season berth in eight years. With high expectations entering Sutton’s first campaign as coach, the Golden Eagles stumbled to a 13-17 overall record. Five of those losses came in overtime, while another four came at the end of the season when he had to suspend two of his best players for violation of team rules.

In his second campaign, minus six seniors from the year before, ORU finished 10-19 overall. There was hope early, as the Golden Eagles began the season with an 87-83 triumph over Big 12 foe Nebraska at the Mabee Center. However, the reality of the team’s inexperience (10 new players) eventually settled in as ORU had losing streaks of seven and nine games, respectively.

Sutton finally reaped the rewards of his hard work in year three. The Golden Eagles rebounded from a 2-7 start to finish 17-14 overall and second in the Mid-Continent Conference. Had it not been for a freak injury to leading scorer Reggie Borges in the opening round of the Mid-Con Tournament, ORU may have reached the NCAA Tournament much sooner than expected. Instead, without Borges, the Golden Eagles lost in the semifinals.

For his efforts, Sutton was named Mid-Con Coach of the Year by a panel of league media members.

In 2002-03, ORU began the season 6-0 (the best start in the program’s Division I history), defeating Arkansas, SMU and Wichita State along the way. The Golden Eagles finished the year with an 18-10 overall mark, the school’s most victories since the 1997-98 season.

In 2003-04, Sutton guided a team that consisted of just one returning starter and six first-year players to a 17-11 mark and a second-place finish in the Mid-Continent Conference standings.

Growing up as the youngest son of a legendary coach, Scott paid close attention to his father, and has borrowed a few notes from Dad as well. He also had the opportunity to play for his father at Oklahoma State from 1992-94, helping the Cowboys reach the NCAA Tournament both seasons.

With his father now retired, Scott is suddenly the elder statesmen in the Sutton family among active head coaches. Older brother, Sean, begins his second season as head coach at Oklahoma State this fall.

“I may have six-and-a-half years on Sean as a head coach, but he’s been in the business a lot longer than I have,” said Scott. “He was one of our assistant coaches at OSU during my senior season. He’s had a lot to do with their success over the last several years, and I know he’s going to be a fantastic head coach.”

From his days as a youngster watching his father coach at Creighton, Arkansas and Kentucky, to his days as a player for him at Oklahoma State, to his days as an assistant coach at ORU under the likes of Self and Barry Hinson, Scott had learned a lot about the game… and ORU.

“Of course I understand that it certainly didn’t hurt my chances for getting this job being the son of Eddie Sutton,” Scott said. “I do know that I love this university. This is my university. Oklahoma State may be my alma mater, but ORU is my school.”

In truth, Sutton’s love and devotion to ORU, along with his Christianity, basketball knowledge and recruiting ability helped him earn his first head coaching position. It has also helped him get through the highs and lows he has experienced since being named as ORU’s 11th head coach on April 30, 1999. Sutton replaced current Missouri State head coach Barry Hinson.

   © 2005 Scott Sutton., a division of All rights reserved.