STILLWATER - Patsy Sutton typically doesn't give her husband advice on coaching or basketball.
But the wife of Oklahoma State University men's basketball coach Eddie Sutton made a rare exception earlier this season at the Great Alaska Shootout. As she was sitting in her assigned seat behind the OSU bench, listening to her spouse give the players orders and admonitions, she tapped him on the shoulder. She told him to say something positive, getting a laugh from him.
"Then, when Jason (Miller) made a free throw, he said something like, 'Way to go,' and then told me, 'There, I said something positive,'" she said with a grin.
In 44 years of marriage and coaching, Patsy Sutton has left the basketball expertise to her husband. But she has always been there with her supportive and positive attitude.
"When I've been inducted into different halls of fame, I've always shared it with her, because she's been my biggest supporter," said Eddie Sutton, 66, who is part of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. "I can't say enough good things about her."
A Stillwater native, Patsy, 64, met her future husband at the college where they graduated and he now coaches. They met at the home of a mutual friend.
"I had to chase hard to catch her in college. I had to lay all sorts of traps to get her to go out with me," Eddie said. "Good thing I could run fast and was patient."
They married a year and a half later, just after Eddie's 1958 graduation. They decided he would get a master's degree and work as a graduate assistant coach under Henry Iba while she studied to get her home economics education degree in three years.
"I had no idea what he wanted to do when I first started dating him," she said. "I think it was that year when ... it became apparent."
He got his first job at Tulsa Central High School, and they thought back then that he would become a career high school coach.
"We did it seven years and loved every minute of it," she said. "He's always considered himself a teacher, and I think that comes from being a high school coach where he did teach."
While Eddie was teaching history and basketball, Patsy attended all the games and taught home economics at Monroe Junior High School for five years. She retired from teaching when they decided to start a family, and oldest son Steve was born.
Eddie Sutton got his first chance at the college game when College of Southern Idaho, a new school, contacted him and offered him the opportunity to start the basketball program.
"At that point, we were ready for an adventure," she said.
And Eddie Sutton's aspirations also began to change. He wanted to become an NCAA Division 1 basketball coach.
He stayed three years in Idaho, where second son Sean was born, and then Creighton came calling. The Suttons packed up for Omaha, Neb., and Division 1 territory.
"I was a partner in all this. This was not his career; it was our career," Patsy said. "This is what he wanted to do, and I was very involved with it, and I wanted it for him. I looked forward to the challenge."
Their third son, Scott, was born in Nebraska, and Eddie Sutton found continued success in his five years at Creighton. Other universities began to contact him, and a trip to the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight in his fifth year increased the attention.
He interviewed at Duke and was pursued by the University of Arkansas. Arkansas was closer to home and offered ripe territory for recruiting. The university was ready to make a commitment to building up its lackluster basketball program.
In 11 years at Arkansas, the couple raised their children, and Eddie Sutton took his first trip to the Final Four. Steve graduated from high school and opted not to play college basketball but attended the University of Kentucky, where his father took his next coaching job.
Kentucky was a sort of dream job for Eddie, a chance to coach for a major program with a rich tradition. But he inherited a mess. The NCAA was investigating allegations of recruiting violations, and rumors and accusations were flying, Patsy said. Sean played for the team, so he also was in the middle of the uneasy situation.
Despite the difficulties, she said she enjoyed her time in Kentucky. While she had been involved in volunteer work before, much of it had centered on the boys' school activities. In Lexington, she served on the boards of Ronald McDonald House and a center for abused children. She developed interests in 18th century American furniture, old books and antiques.
"This may sound trite, but we believed the measure of a man boils down to the way he deals with adversity. Everyone faces adversity, no one escapes it, so it became a challenge to overcome it the best we could," she said. "I never look back at Kentucky with any kind of regret. If that hadn't happened, we would never have made it here. Things work out."
After four years in Kentucky, which included his only losing season, Eddie resigned. He took a year off to work for Nike's basketball relations. Then, he learned his alma mater was looking for a new coach, and OSU hired him in spring 1990.
"It seemed a natural," Patsy said, adding that much of her family lives in Stillwater. "I thought it was just a wonderful thing for the family. Somehow, it was just perfect."
The Suttons' alliance with OSU has brought Eddie numerous trips to the NCAA tournament and another trip to the Final Four. However, they faced their greatest adversity at OSU the 2001 plane crash that killed 10 men affiliated with basketball program.
"For us, I think it has made a difference in how we live our lives," Patsy said. "It is by far the most difficult thing I've ever experienced."
Eddie Sutton calls his wife "my No. 1 assistant coach." She attends all the OSU home games and occasionally travels to away games. She has the players over for dinner before the season and in the spring, and sometimes hosts recruiting dinners. She serves as an advocate for the players, often developing close relationships with them. Darrell Walker, an OSU standout who later played in the NBA, has credited her with saving his life when she taught him to take responsibility for his actions.
The Suttons' two younger sons played basketball at OSU under their father, and Sean remains as an OSU assistant coach, while Scott coaches at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. Steve is a banker who lives in Fayetteville, Ark. They have five grandchildren, with one more on the way, and Patsy relishes her role as grandma, or "Honey," as the youngsters call her.
She also serves on the Stillwater Medical Center Foundation Board, volunteers at the Sheerar Museum, is a founding member of the steering committee for OSU's Women in Philanthropy, is on the executive board for the College of Human Environmental Sciences Associates and attends First United Methodist Church in Stillwater. She exercises, gardens, reads and studies Irish history.
"Certainly, it's been more than we dreamed of when we started. It's been fun and exciting, and it's been stressful. But mostly, it's been gratifying every step of the way," she said.Archive ID: 1153957