LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)-On Saturday, former Kentucky basketball head coach Eddie Sutton passed away at the age of 84.
Sutton’s time at Kentucky may have ended in turmoil, but those closest to him while in Lexington still say he impacted their lives.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes may be known for being on the sidelines for televised cats and SEC games, but years ago he laced up his sneakers to play and later grabbed a clipboard to coach, both under the late Eddie sutton. Dykes played under Sutton at Arkansas from 1981 to 1984. He remembers Sutton cared a lot for his players, but he was old school.
“We played in the Hawaii tournament and lost two out of three games there and the last game we lost, we drove straight to the airport in Honolulu, took a red eye flight all night long to Dallas, Dallas to Fayetteville and got off the plane…got to campus about 8 o’clock that next morning and practiced three times that next day and didn’t think anything of it. We lost. Coach wasn’t happy with us. We had to take 100 charges over a period of three practices,” Dykes said.
Dykes’ time with Sutton wouldn’t end there. After Joe B Hall, Sutton would get the Kentucky job in 1985. Dykes joined him as an assistant in ’87.
Coach Sutton kind of changed the way things were done at Kentucky when he got the job and it wasn’t really popular with those who were close to the program early, but I think they realized what he stood for. He wasn’t going to vary from how he thought that program should look, should feel and what it should be grounded in,” Dykes said.
Former UK star Reggie Hanson played his first two years at Kentucky under Sutton and one thing he remembers most, the three ‘Ds’.
“It was discipline, dedication and defense. Obviously the defense is for on the court, but the dedication and discipline was about life, about academics, the type of people we were trying to be so he really taught us about being men,” Hanson said.
Something else Sutton taught Hanson at Kentucky: everyone wants to beat you.
“Coach Sutton always said, ‘You always have a target on your back. No matter what team you’re playing, you’re going to come out and have somebody drop 30 on you and you’re going to be like where did this guy come from and it’s going to be like a tough game. It could be like a lower division one team,'” Hanson said.
Sutton’s time in Lexington wouldn’t have a storybook ending. He would resign amid allegation the program paid recruit Chris Mills $1,000.
Dykes says it may be hard to see, but maybe it was always meant to be. After Kentucky, Sutton would coach his alma mater Oklahoma State to two final fours. Just two months ago, Sutton was voted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, a moment Dykes knows meant a lot to his former coach.
“I got to speak with coach after the ceremony. They held the phone up to his ear and he couldn’t really communicate back with me, but I know at that point you felt that, you know what? It’s complete now. And for him to be able to get that recognition before his passing was really special to a lot of people,” Dykes said.