Former players shower Sutton with praise on Zoom

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2020

— Several of former Arkansas basketball coach Eddie Sutton’s players and support staff got together via Zoom on Tuesday morning to shower praise on the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Fame honoree.

Former Razorbacks Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer, Jim Counce, Joe Kleine, Charles Balentine and Houston Nutt and current Arkansas assistant coach and former Oklahoma State player Corey Williams were among those on the call with Sutton, who was at his home in Tulsa, Okla.

Counce, who went on to become a heart surgeon, was a Razorbacks player and assistant coach for Sutton, who who was 260-75 (.776 winning percentage) at Arkansas from 1974-85 and 804-328 (.710) overall in his head coaching career. He also coached at Creighton, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and San Francisco.

“Without you there would be a big hole there that would have been impossible to replace,” Counce said. “Congratulations on your recognition. You have always been a hall of fame coach for us. We love you and we will always love you.”

Moncrief, who joined with Brewer, Marvin Delph and Counce to lead Sutton’s 1978 Arkansas team to the Final Four, spoke about Sutton off the court on the call, which was put together by Fayetteville High basketball coach and Sutton family friend Brad Stamps.

“When you talk about great coaches, you have to talk about how he coached outside of basketball,” Moncrief said. “Everyone on this video, the former players, have very productive lives and have had an impact on other people’s lives and that is indicative of a great coach.

“I keep telling people that it doesn’t happen by accident. That happens because you had great (assistant) coaches, a strong foundation, you had tenacity, you had grit and, Coach Sutton, you taught us all those attributes and I am forever grateful for you and to you. I love you and thank you.”

Former Razorbacks Moncrief, Brewer, Kleine and Darrell Walker all played 10-plus years in the NBA after playing for Sutton, who will be inducted into the hall of fame Aug. 29 in Springfield, Mass.

“You allowed your players to excel,” Moncrief said. “A lot of people like to think of Coach Sutton and they like to think slow down, pass the basketball, pass the basketball, but we put up some points because when he had horses you let the horses run. When you had donkeys, you slowed them down.”

Moncrief also noted that Sutton was pretty hard on him.

“I just remember (Sutton saying), 'You couldn’t guard my grandmother and she’s dead,’” Moncrief said.

Brewer, an All-American like Moncrief, hit a shot to lift Arkansas over Notre Dame in the last third-place game in NCAA Tournament history in 1978.

“You have done a wonderful job in doing it with a lot of class,” Brewer said. “The committee didn’t have to vote you in. You were already a hall of fame coach in our mind.”

Brewer noted that Kansas was his first choice, but Sutton instead talked him into attending the College of Southern Idaho and then transferring to Arkansas.

“You know, when I came out of Fort Smith Northside, the University of Arkansas wasn’t my first choice,” Brewer said. “But you made it a very integral part of allowing me to be able to be a Razorback.

“We had a lot of talent that you put together and allowed us to develop and be very successful. Not only that, but you coached us, you taught us, you led us.”

Kleine, who transferred after a year at Notre Dame, spoke about the sense of family that Sutton created among his players and support staff.

“I think the greatest thing about what we are doing today, I look at all you guys and I look at you like family,” Kleine said. “I think that is what all great programs have. You look at your Dukes, Kansas, Kentuckys and so on and so forth, they have one thing in common.

"They have a great leader, a guy that bonds everybody together, makes everybody feel like family.”

Balentine was recruited from Newport in 1981 and went on to hit a game-winning shot to down No. 1 North Carolina and Michael Jordan 65-64 in Pine Bluff on Feb. 12, 1984.

“We knew you were a great coach all along. We knew you were a great man all along,” Balentine said. “I talk about the things that you have done for me, my family, my friends and all of us all the time.

“Growing up and knowing you from television before I got to Northwest Arkansas and some of these former players on this call, ones I looked up to in Newport, Ark., being from Arkansas made it special. You made it to where we wanted to be a Razorback. We may have looked at other places, but deep down I really wanted to be a Razorback.”

Balentine noted he has used the lessons he learned from Sutton in his every day life.

“All of the things that you taught us, I find myself doing that in every company that I have been with in the last few years,” Balentine said, “whether it be defense, dedication or being there where we need to be on time or putting us in situations where we had to figure it out not only as an individual but as a team.

"All of that teaching that you have done over the years was very impactful.”

Nutt, who would later go on to become the head football coach at Arkansas, was recruited as a quarterback, but he also joined the basketball team in the offseason.

He remembers Sutton stressing his three Ds - defense, discipline, dedication.

“Little did I realize while sitting on that bench, in my mind I watched how this great, great coach handled these players with great talent, keeping everybody together, using those three Ds. It just kept coming back into my mind all the time,” Nutt said.

“It was just an awesome feeling to be part of that team although I didn’t contribute much. I loved my one-minute mop up.”

Nutt also talked about Sutton’s influence on his players off the court.

“There is no doubt he is a hall of fame coach. We all knew that no question,” Nutt said. “But for me, it was what he did off the court. It was just a privilege to be part of a great team and be around great people. All these guys were awesome.

"Coach Sutton, we love you and love the example you set as a father, as a husband and as a coach.”

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.