STILLWATER, OKLA. Eddie Sutton has gone back to his roots to return to coaching.
Sutton, who played at Oklahoma State in the late 1950s, returned to his alma mater Wednesday as the 16th coach in school history. He replaces Leonard Hamilton, who last week took the job at the University of Miami.
``I'm just thrilled to be the new basketball coach at Oklahoma State,'' Sutton said. ``If you had given me the opportunity of all the jobs to come open this spring, this would have been number one.''
Sutton has been away from coaching for the past year, after resigning the Kentucky job under pressure. He left a program that was placed on four years' probation by the NCAA, and although he was not named in any of the infractions, Sutton addressed the Kentucky problems in his opening remarks to a large news conference.
``I ALWAYS thought I tried to do things that were right, and always wanted to run a clean, class program,'' he said. ``We went through a very difficult time there, and I don't ever want that experience again.
``I was the head of the program, so I had to shoulder some of the responsiblity of what happened there, but I think I've learned that I'll be a better manager of people. I can supervise the program much better than perhaps I did there. It was a learning thing for me.''
Sutton also said he recognized three years ago that he had a problem with alcohol, and ``I've dealt with it.''
Sutton, 54, said he had always hoped to return to Oklahoma State as coach, but the timing was never right. He wasn't offered the job when it came open in the early 1970s and he was coaching at Creighton. The other times it opened up, he was in charge of programs at Arkansas and Kentucky.
AS A DISCIPLE of former coach Henry Iba, Sutton was the front-runner for the job from the start. He flew to Stillwater the day after the NCAA championship game Iba and several Oklahoma State boosters were aboard the plane and met with athletic director Myron Roderick. Then he returned to Stillwater for a meeting Saturday with university president John Campbell.
``I spent 5 hours with him,'' Campbell said. ``In 5 hours you can ask a lot of questions, and I did. He certainly answered them all satisfactorily.''
The regents who govern Oklahoma State met in a special session Wednesday afternoon to consider Campbell's recommendation. After nearly 90 minutes in executive session, the regents returned and voted 7-1 to hire Sutton at annual an salary of $85,000. Campbell recommended a five-year contract.
Sutton inherits several players from a team that went 17-14, finished fifth in the Big Eight and advanced to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. He said his top concern is recruiting, and pledged to bring in players who are also solid students.
He also said this will be his last job in coaching.
``I'm committed to this institution,'' he said. "We just have no desire to go anywhere else.''