Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
UA practice gym will be named after Sutton
University of Arkansas head basketball coach Eddie Sutton watches as his Razorbacks are introduced prior to their Southwest Conference Tournament game with SMU in Houston, Texas, March 2, 1978. (AP Photo)
The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees approved naming the men’s basketball team’s practice gym after former coach Eddie Sutton at their May meeting Thursday in Little Rock.
The gym, located inside the Razorbacks’ Basketball Performance Center, will be known as the Eddie Sutton Men's Basketball Practice Gym.
The Basketball Performance Center is located across the street from Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville and houses locker rooms, training areas, separate practice gyms and coaches’ offices for the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The vote took place two months after trustees approved naming the court at Bud Walton Arena after former coach Nolan Richardson. At that meeting, trustees asked UA Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek and Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz to return in May with an idea for honoring Sutton, who coached at Arkansas for 11 seasons from 1974-85.
Sutton went 260-75, won five Southwest Conference championships and led the Razorbacks to nine NCAA Tournaments during an 11-season run at Arkansas that laid the foundation for Richardson to build one of the sport’s dominant teams of the 1990s.
Arkansas had been to one NCAA Tournament in 25 seasons prior to Sutton's arrival.
When Sutton took the Razorbacks to the Final Four in 1978, it had been 33 years since the program’s last appearance. The 1978 team finished 32-4, tied for the second-most single-season victories in program history, and Sutton was named national coach of the year by The Associated Press.
"He loved coaching the Razorbacks. He always took so much pride in that program," said Sean Sutton, the second of Eddie Sutton's three sons and now an advisor to the basketball coaching staff at Texas Tech. "In a lot of ways, he viewed Arkansas basketball as his fourth child. He spent so much time and effort trying to build that program.
"The two places he was happiest were the 11 years he spent at Arkansas and the 16 years he spent at Oklahoma State."
Sutton had a winning season every year and only lost a double-digit number of games once, when he lost 13 during his last season at Arkansas, before becoming Kentucky's head coach. The team went 22-13 that year and made the NCAA Tournament.
Four of his Arkansas teams finished the season ranked in The AP Top 10.
Sutton’s success generated a statewide following for Razorbacks basketball, and his tenure included the renovation of Barnhill Arena from a dusty, 5,000-seat multi-purpose facility to a sparkling 9,000-seat basketball arena that became a great home-court advantage.
Sutton’s teams were a combined 120-8 at Barnhill. His .776 overall win percentage at Arkansas was an SWC record.
"He was always so appreciative of the fans and the role the fans made in making Barnhill one of the toughest places to play in college basketball," Sean Sutton said, "but also their role in helping Arkansas to develop into one of the top 10 or 15 programs during that time."
He coached six Arkansas players - Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer, Marvin Delph, Scott Hastings, Alvin Robertson and Darrell Walker - who were All-Americans.
“Coach Sutton is an integral part of the history of Razorback Basketball and it is fitting that he be honored in this way for his contributions to our program,” Yurachek said in a statement. “Coach Sutton helped transform the way our state thought about college basketball and provided Razorback fans with countless memories. His legacy is not only shaped by his many victories and championships, but also by the immeasurable impact he made in the lives of the young men who called him ‘Coach.'"
Sutton resigned after four seasons at Kentucky amid an NCAA investigation that resulted in a postseason ban for the Wildcats. He had his greatest success during a 16-season tenure at his alma mater Oklahoma State, where he won 368 games and went to two Final Fours.
The floor at Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena is named for Sutton.
Sutton won 804 games, coached in three Final Fours, won 10 regular-season conference championships and was the first coach to lead four schools to the NCAA Tournament during his 36-year career.
He is the winningest college coach who has not been elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which is considered the sport's highest lifetime achievement honor. Sutton has been a finalist for the Naismith Hall of Fame six times, including this year, but each time has failed to receive the necessary 18 votes from the Hall's 24-member selection panel.
Sutton was inducted into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
A banner with Sutton's name is displayed in the rafters of Bud Walton Arena.
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