With each passing year, the tone and substance of the phone conversations have changed.
It's no longer a coach lecturing his pupil. Or a mentor teaching his young professional. The interactions between two longtime friends have become a cherished time to reflect and catch up.
Tony Allen calls Eddie Sutton at least once a month. He has to. Sutton makes him.
But even if he didn't, Allen would gladly dial the number anyway. Just to talk life and basketball with the man he still considers a coach, mentor, friend and father figure.
“Once we get on the phone, we're on there for at least a good solid 25 minutes,” said Allen, now a guard for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. “Like one time, he sent me a picture of him riding a bull. I thought it was funny so I called him right back. Had to make sure he was OK, didn't fall off it or nothing.”
The conversation begins anywhere: women, weather, health or even bull riding. But it always finds its way back to basketball.
That's what brought them together more than 10 years ago, a bond that formed at Oklahoma State after Sutton snatched Allen out of the rough streets of Chicago.
Sutton promised Allen a bright future. He just needed to work hard and keep his nose clean.
They certainly bumped heads (Allen refers to it as Sutton's “tough love”). But the lessons got through, and the pleas from Sutton's late wife Patsy were always received. Go to class and get your degree, you'll be a better man for it.
He did and he did, graduating in his final year at OSU with a degree in education.
And Allen kept his basketball side of the agreement as well, playing with unmatched tenacity and leading Sutton's 2004 Cowboy squad to the Final Four.
“He was always so appreciative of what we did for him,” Sutton said. “Well I appreciate what he did for Oklahoma State. I'm just so proud of him not only as a basketball player, but as a person.”