Sutton Heads To San Fran

By Josh Herwitt - December 26, 2007

Eddie Sutton, welcome back to college basketball.

The Associated Press reported late Wednesday that the former Oklahoma State coach has decided to come out of retirement to take over San Francisco on an interim basis after Jessie Evans announced he was taking a leave of absence earlier in the day.

Sutton, who concluded his tenure with the Cowboys following the 2005-06 season, has compiled 798 victories at the Division I level in 36 years with Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State.

And the 71-year-old coach will have his chance to win No. 799 Friday night when USF faces Weber State on the road. Winning No. 800, a mark that only four other coaches in college basketball have attained to date, could come as soon as Monday night, when the Dons play at Utah Valley State on New Year's Eve -- quite a New Year's present if you ask me. But if not in Oreom, Utah, then Sutton could do it back in The City by the Bay against Patriot League foe Holy Cross on Jan. 5.

"It's very important," Sutton said of the honorary mark. "I had a chance earlier this year to take a Division I job and didn't think I wanted to do it. From a selfish standpoint, it is something I'm excited about.

"It was a goal I had for myself. I don't think nationally anybody's going to look at it and say, 'Now you won 800 versus 798.' There's just not that much difference."

It hasn't always been blue skies for Sutton, though. The fifth-most winningest coach in NCAA history left Oklahoma State following a drunk driving accident in February 2006 that kept him from coaching OSU's final 10 games and left him in weekly AA meetings after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor and two other charges.

"I certainly didn't want to end my coaching career the way it ended here," Sutton said from the Oklahoma State athletic office. "As a recovering alcoholic you have to work on that every day. I still attend meetings."

But it's not going to be easy for Sutton. The Dons, after all, are just 4-8 this season and have lost their last three games, with each of them coming on the road. That's where Sutton will join his new team, as USF players will meet Sutton in Salt Lake City and practice once in front of the legendary coach before hitting the court to play the Wildcats in roughly two days from now.

"I would say it's the toughest challenge that I've ever had," Sutton said. "I've had challenges before, but I'm looking forward to meeting the young men and trying to turn the season around."

"What a life changing experience for the USF players to be coached by an all-time great," Kansas coach Bill Seilf said. "While not an ideal time to be hired, Coach Sutton is going to excite and energize that entire campus and community. In addition, the staff accompanying him will by season end, have this team headed in the right direction."

Evans, meanwhile, was in his fourth season with the Dons after leaving Louisiana-Lafayette in April 2004 to take over the program for Phil Mathews but has been forced to deal with several team issues in just the first two months of this season.

One of those issues included the ongoing troubles of senior forward Vince Polakovic, who was suspended by the NCAA earlier this month for 24 games due to his participation with a German national team back in 2004.

While USF, in fact, said nearly four weeks ago that several members on the international squad received stipends which, in the eyes of the NCAA, were "above actual and necessary expenses," the school maintained that Polakovic was not among those players and planned to appeal the suspension.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 07:26 PM on December 26, 2007

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