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Berry Tramel: Former OSU basketball coach Eddie Sutton hopes hurts have healed

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 25, 2011 at 8:22 pm •  Published: January 25, 2011

TULSA — Eddie Sutton will renew auld acquaintance Wednesday night. He will see old friends. Exchange handshakes and hugs. And wonder.

Sutton will wonder what others are thinking. Will wonder if these people, so intrinsically linked, blame him for the loss of loved ones.

“I think it's difficult for some of them to see me,” Sutton said. “I think some of them have always thought that maybe everything wasn't done ... I don't know if some of 'em blame me, but sometimes I feel some of 'em feel like it could have been handled in a different manner.

“I don't know.”

Sutton has lived a lifetime these last 10 years. Lived a lifetime since that Oklahoma State basketball plane went down in the Colorado foothills, 10 years ago Thursday. Lived a lifetime since the end of 10 lives in his charge.

A fall from grace, due to addiction. A third Final Four. His son's fall from grace, also to addiction.

Highest highs. Lowest lows. But nothing lower than Jan. 27, 2001.

“When somebody asks me what's some of the darkest days of your life, that's certainly near the top,” Sutton said.

Sutton's alcohol relapse, five years ago, ended his OSU career. Some believe the plane crash sent Sutton back to the bottle, though Sutton attributes it to his back pain.

No one knows for sure, including probably Sutton himself.

But it seems likely that the weight of responsibility over the plane crash took years off Sutton's career.

Sutton, who has had back surgery and a hip replacement, physically feels OK for a 74-year-old man with high mileage. Without the car crash that revealed his alcoholism, there's no doubt he would have coached longer.

The plane crash “took a lot out of me,” Sutton said. But it made him closer to his family and it drew him closer to his players. It made Eddie Sutton a better coach.

“It made me concentrate on my coaching,” Sutton said. “I think coaches sometimes, when you reach a certain age, if you're not careful, you can get in a rocking chair situation.”

Sutton works most days in public relations for Spirit Bank in Tulsa.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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