Sutton Begins A New Era At UK-
Welcome home Eddie.
Just moments after Arkansas' Eddie Sutton was named head basketball coach at Kentucky Tuesday afternoon, the former Razorback basketball czar told a crowd of some 150 reporters, University officials and friends that Kentucky has always been the place he wanted to coach and finish his career.
His dream came true late Monday when a UK ad hoc advisory committee interviewed the popular head coach and then recommended to the UK Athletics Association that he be hired to replace the retiring Joe B. Hall.
It was a nostalgic event, to say the least. There on hand to help celebrate the occasion was Sutton's wife, his three sons and his old college coach, the legendary Henry Iba at Oklahoma State.
Sutton, who made Arkansas something besides a football state, has enjoyed immense success with the
Razorbacks in trie Southwest Conference. He has won 260 games and lost only 75 in eleven seasons at Arkansas. Even more astonishing is the Hogs' incredible homecourt record of 121-8.
Known as a defensive wizard, Sutton's teams are known for their intense defensive pressure. Much like Kentucky's proud tradition, Sutton subscribes to total discipline and dedication to the game.
Bombarded with a lengthy question and answer session with dozens of reporters staying over from the NCAA Final Four. Sutton was quick to point out the great Kentucky tradition, first from the great Adolph Rupp and then continued by Joe B. Hall.
He emphasized the similarities of Hall's philosophies and said there were much similiar than most people realized.
What Sutton's appointment accomplishes is a successful effort by the UK administration to continue the tradition and success which UK basketball has enjoyed in the past.
While it will be a few days before Sutton gets his feet on the ground at UK, he isn't allowing any grass to grow around him. He immediately scheduled a session with the local media for the next day and in less than 24 hours after the announcement he and assistant Leonard Hamilton were off recruiting, apparently a quick effort to shore up UK's efforts to win some signees next month.
One of his first official acts was to name Leonard Hamilton as an assistant coach. Hamilton, who has been UK's chief recruiter for almost a decade, appeared with Sutton at the Tuesday announcement.
Hamilton said it was a privilege and honor to be asked by Sutton to be on the new coach's staff. Hamilton was primarily responsible for the early signing of Florida's Irving Thomas last November.
Last week, Thomas' high school coach, Ernie Bell, expressed concern over Hall's retirement and the vacancy Most insiders believe Thomas will honor his signing with Kentucky.
Of major importance to UK's recruiting today is the prospects of winning Kenny Payne of Mississippi and Tommy Lewis of California. Both had UK high on their list, but no one knows how Hall's sudden retirement may affect them.
The final process to hire Sutton did not hit high gear until sometime
It was a week earlier when the UK ad hoc committee first started going after a new man. Reports were numerous and often untrue as is the situation most of the time.
It's apparent that Arizona's Lute Olson was UK's first choice. He reportedly was close to terms as late as Sunday before the deal fell through. A second coach, UAB's Gene Bartow, reportedly could have had the job but pulled out twice.
UK officials declined to say if anyone had been offered the job prior to Sutton. Other names which were considered included: SMU's Dave Bliss, Purdue's Gene Keady, Lakers' Pat Riley, retiring Denver Nuggets' Dan Issel, South Florida's Lee Rose, former UK assistant Dick Parsons, Georgia Tech's Bobby Cremins and several others. Many of those had their names withdrawn from the list.
According to sources close to the situation, the committee was down to Rose and Parsons Monday morning after Bartow decided a second time not to pursue the job.
It was at that time that Sutton was first approached. Our reports have it that Sutton met with the ad hoc committee Monday evening and was offered the job that night. He quickly accepted.
President Otis Singletary confirmed that he, too, sit in on the Sutton interview, the only one in which he
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Singletary pointed out that UK exhausted every possible avenue in acquiring the best coach available.
Despite not being the first choice, Sutton could well turn out to be the best candidate, for two reasons.
First, Jerry Claiborne has proved that first doesn't necessarily mean the
Eddie Sutton Biography
In 11 years as head basketball coach and assistant athletics director at the University of Arkansas, Eddie Sutton has taken his sport from the basement of the Southwest Conference to a statewide phenomenon and a spot among the national elite. Sutton has established and is still building records that may never be approached in league history. His overall percentage of .776 is a conference record as is his percentage of .797 in SWC contests. His record of 260-75 equates to an average of 23.6 victories a season.
During the last nine years the Razorbacks have won or shared five league titles, finished second four times and have made nine trips to the NCAA tournament. Arkansas and North Carolina are the only schools in the country to have played in each of the last nine NCAA tournaments.
Coach of the Year honors have been frequent. He has won national honors twice (1977 and 1978) and has been named the SWC's top coach four times.
Since going to Arkansas from Creighton following the 1973-74 seas-
on, Sutton has created a monster in the Ozarks. His teams have been nearly impossible to defeat at Barnhill Arena, their on-campus home. Under Sutton's direction, the Hogs are 121-8 at Barnhill, a stunning percentage of .932. Razorback games have been sold out before the season begins for the last eight years and tickets to Arkansas' basketball games have become nearly impossible for non-season ticket holders to secure.
Sutton's success has been built on what he calls "the three D's --dedication, discipline and defense." The Razorbacks annually rank as one of the nation's top defensive teams, drawing raves for their suffocating style of man-to-man defense. Even without great perimeter shooters, Arkansas' field goal percentage usually ranks among the best. In fact, during the past 10 seasons, only North Carolina has a higher field goal percentage.
One of Sutton's first coaching jobs came during this past season when his youngest team challenged a schedule
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best. He wasn't the first choice when UK hired a football coach three years ago, but I doubt anyone would trade his accomplishments for any other coach today.
Secondly, Sutton showed an immediately and total interest for the UK job, something that neither of the other two were totally committed to.
Sutton's ability to recruit and mingle with people is a strong plus for him when you consider the high visibility of the Kentucky program. His on-court winning success certainly qualifies him as one of the nation's top five coaches.
Most impressive to UK officials was Sutton's record and his willingness to make a commitment to UK without hesitation. Sutton later said there was never any doubt that he would accept the UK post, if it were offered to hint.
Sutton begins a new era of Kentucky basketball and it should be a very good one. Best of luck Eddie. Ma'' be many and happy at Kentucky.
Because of the late-breaking developments in the Eddie Sutton appointment, TCP was held up to Tuesday for this announcement.
Next week, we'll have expanded and special stories and comments on Sutton's appointment from other officials around UK and the college basketball circles. Also included will be detailed information on WHAS's decision not to carry UK basketball and football games again.
Also, complete coverage of the Final Four will be next week in our last weekly issue of the season. This issue is actually the last regular issue, but an extra edition will be published next week to make up for the issue not published during the Christmas holidays.
Not to be forgotten in all the NCAA Final Four and the new coaching appointment is the final farewell to Coach Joe B. Hall at the Committee of 101 annual basketball banquet Thursday night on the UK campus.
Some tickets are still available by calling the UK basketball ticket office at Memorial Coliseum. Inside is a pictorial look back at the Joe B. Hall era in this issue.