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Berry Tramel: Time to stop naming coaches-in-waiting

Sean Sutton agrees that it's not always best for sons to take over their fathers' programs.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 8, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pat Knight is out at Texas Tech. Another one bites the dust.

Another coach-in-waiting gone awry. Another disastrous monarchal succession.

Can we stop this madness? Can universities stop naming successors years in advance, particularly sons of the coaches they'll be replacing?

Sean Sutton is on board.

Knight this week drove down Sean Street, losing a Big 12 basketball job bequeathed by his father.

“We're 0-2, with Sean and I,” Knight said Tuesday at the Sprint Center, where his Red Raiders practiced for perhaps the final time. “The record speaks for itself.”

Sutton lasted 2¼ years following Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State; Knight lasted 3¼ following Bobby Knight at Tech.

Replacing a legend like Eddie Sutton or Bob Knight is tough enough. Crown prince status only adds to the degree of difficulty.

“It's a tough road for anybody,” Sean said Tuesday from Sioux Falls, S.D., where the Oral Roberts team for which he is a consultant is playing in the Summit League Tournament.

“Look at the coaches who tried to replace John Wooden at UCLA,” Sean said. “So much scrutiny. So much pressure.

“For a younger coach, replacing a successful, legendary coach, you're going to walk into a job at the same level, the way they were at the end of their career, is not realistic. But ... that's what people expect.”

Sean was forced out at OSU in April 2008. In February 2010, he was charged with four felony counts relating to fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs.

Sean says his addiction started after he left the OSU basketball job but was related to the depression from which he suffered while coaching.

Sean had several chances to leave OSU while on his dad's staff — he was mentioned for head coaching jobs at Murray State, SMU and Clemson — and wishes he had jumped.

“It's easy to look back, but yeah, I think I would have benefited a lot more,” Sean said. “I stayed out of loyalty to my dad. I wanted him to win a national championship. Probably a mistake.

“I had the opportunity to leave after my first year (as head coach). I probably should have left. I stayed out of loyalty to Oklahoma State. Sometimes you reach the point where too much loyalty works against you. Something I wish I could do over.”

Monarchal heredity has failed in college hoops. Sutton and Knight ended disastrously, Sutton with the descent into addiction, Knight with a losing program that draws few fans. DePaul's Joey Meyer succeeded for awhile, then crashed and was fired.

Blog: Texas Tech soon to be worst job

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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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