Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Sutton deserves seat beside Nolan in hall
Eddie Sutton, President Bill Clinton and Nolan Richardson take part in a half-time ceremony in the game between Arkansas and LSU on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Last Monday’s question should not have been will either or both Nolan Richardson and Eddie Sutton be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame?
The question should have been why haven’t both been inducted a long time ago?
At least that would be the question posed in Arkansas, the state still relishing that both coached the Razorbacks in their coaching prime, although Sutton would go on from Arkansas to again scale Final Four heights at Oklahoma State.
In the Naismith Hall of Fame’s defense, it does not just compare apples to oranges like the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, which has both Sutton and Richardson enshrined.
The Naismith gamut runs from apples to zucchini. Those A to Z worldwide comparisons manifested in the 10-member 2014 Hall of Fame class announced Monday for Aug. 8 enshrinement in Springfield, Mass.
The 10 inductees include former college coaches Richardson and Maryland’s Gary Williams; former NBA Commissioner David Stern; former college/NBA stars Guy Rodgers, Mitch Richmond and Alonzo Mourning; the late Harlem Globetrotter Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton; Coach Bob Leonard of the defunct ABA; Lithuanian international star Saruna Marciulionis and the Immaculata University women’s teams that won consecutive national titles in 1972-1974 in the AIAW, the women’s sports forerunner to the NCAA.
Obviously strong cases were made for the 10 voted in and there were cases made for those like Sutton, a finalist who fell short of the required votes.
The Naismith Hall can’t take them all every year, although it behooves its voters to recognize Sutton, 78, soon.
Sutton took four schools - Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State - to NCAA Tournaments. He took Oklahoma State, his alma mater, to two Final Fours during his 1990-2006 tenure, but it was at Arkansas with the Triplets (Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph) that he put himself and the Razorbacks on the national basketball map.
Sutton went undefeated with the Triplets in the 1977 Southwest Conference and went to the 1978 Final Four, transforming basketball from an ignored winter diversion in a football state into a statewide frenzy as rabid as football even during Lou Holtz’s glory years with the Razorbacks.
Richardson inherited the Sutton mantle with the same fans, but he used different methods - they shared the same dedication to defense, although played differently - to build Arkansas basketball so big that it required a bigger arena.
The 2014 induction marking 20 years since his NCAA championship at Arkansas is a fitting coincidence for the only coach with national championships in the NCAA, junior college (1980 at Western Texas College) and the NIT (1981 at Tulsa).
Tulsa shares in honoring Richardson, but he enters the Naismith an Arkansan. Regardless of the controversies during his 17 years as Arkansas’ coach, Richardson obviously so loves living in Arkansas that he hasn’t left it.
The state Nolan Richardson calls home is honored to see him inducted in the Naismith Hall and would be honored again to see his predecessor at Arkansas join him soon in Springfield.
Sports, Pages 14 on 04/09/2014