Through it all, Sutton was always there, suffering through his own personal problems but still finding a way to provide direction for Allen.
He'd warn Allen about the financial downfalls for athletes post-retirement, tell him to always listen to his “wonderful mother” and, of course, critique his defensive stance and intensity.
“Most importantly, he just taught me how to be a man,” Allen said. “On and off the court, he stayed on my behind. When I was doing good, he kept me levelheaded and I like that about him.”
Allen's finally found a home, and key role, in Memphis, starting at shooting guard for the playoff-bound Grizzlies. He's 31 years old. His life has settled.
Sutton, meanwhile, is well into retirement. He's 76 years old and living in Tulsa.
They're at different stages of life, in different parts of the country. But the two make sure to find time for each other, at least once a month.
Like a couple weeks ago, when Allen called Sutton to check up on him after the death of his wife, a woman Allen loved and respected. Or Thursday, when the two will be reunited in person, with Allen's Grizzlies in Oklahoma City to play the Thunder. Sutton will be there.
“Most definitely, it's a special relationship,” Allen said. “That's Coach Sutton. He means everything. He's been a great mentor, put a lot of guidance in my life. So I love him for that.”