Everyone in the Sutton family knew Patsy Sutton’s rule when they got together: talk about anything but basketball. But Scott Sutton, Eddie and Patsy’s youngest son, says it was almost always unavoidable that the subject of basketball would pop up.
“She made sure that there was conversation taking place that didn’t involve basketball, but sooner or later it normally gets around to talking some hoops,” Scott said. “Talking about certain games, talking about our teams or Sean’s team when he was the head coach or my dad’s teams. But I think that’s probably a typical American family that loves sports.”
Patsy had been married to Eddie Sutton for more than 50 years, but she passed away last January after a sudden illness. It was shattering to her three sons and their families. Scott Sutton is in his 15th season as the head coach at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. His older brother Sean works with him as an assistant.
“We’ll spend a lot of time together,” Sean said. “This is the first Christmas without my mother, so I’m sure we’re going to be around my dad a lot. As usual basketball will be a hot topic.”
Eddie is 77 now and retired. After a one-year stint coaching at the University of San Francisco, one of five stops in his coaching career, Eddie and Patsy decided to retire where Eddie’s high school coaching career began, in Tulsa, closer to all three of their sons. Their oldest son, Steve, is in the banking business there.
Eddie Sutton says his other two sons chose coaching on their own, and as long as they stay in the business he believes their total number of victories will grow.
“Back in my days when I was playing, there were a few father-son coaches, but not like it is now,” Eddie said. “It’s just a bit more, but if you coach long enough I guess you’ll win a thousand games or whatever we won.”
Scott Sutton sits atop the list for career coaching wins at Oral Roberts. Sutton doesn’t deny he has been offered a head coaching job elsewhere. He once interviewed at Wichita State, and the Shockers reached the Final Four last year. But Sutton, 43, says he isn’t in any hurry.
“This is home,” Scott said. “I’ve been here a long, long time. My wife’s home and her parents are still alive. My dad is a couple miles away, and he comes to practice quite a bit. It would take something that I felt was right, not only for a professional move but for family as well.”
Though Eddie Sutton has accumulated 804 of the families 1,100 or so wins, no father-son tandem has accounted for more combined career wins. That’s something that leaves an impression on Oral Roberts players like Drew Wilson, a Tulsa native who transferred to ORU from Missouri State.
“I knew he was a great guy, a real great guy,” Wilson said. “Especially having his brother, Coach Sean, there’s just so much knowledge of basketball that they have. Even with Eddie Sutton, the father comes in. It’s amazing.”
Eddie Sutton sat in on this practice. But not for very long. He got up, grabbed his cane and headed off to catch one of his grandsons’ seventh-grade basketball games. If only Patsy were still around, these would be the best of times for the Sutton family.