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Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sutton returns to coaching

Former Oklahoma State coach resumes chase for 800 victories

December 27, 2007

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— Eddie Sutton acknowledges he's selfish: He really wants 800 wins.

He also would prefer to end his career on a positive note rather than amid controversy as he did at Oklahoma State.

Sutton is coming out of retirement to replace Jessie Evans as San Francisco's basketball coach and will have his shot at 800 victories after all. USF announced Wednesday night that Evans was taking "a leave of absence" for the rest of the season and that the 71-year-old Sutton would lead the Dons (4-8) on an interim basis.

Sutton's first chance for win No. 799 will be Friday night at Weber State.

"It's very important," Sutton said of winning 800 games. "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."

Evans will be away from the team at least until March, second-year USF athletic director Debra Gore-Mann said, declining to offer further details.

ESPN indicated Evans' contract would be bought out and he would not return.

Gore-Mann said she or someone from her staff would be traveling with the team regularly in the near future to "lend my support to the student-athletes and to assist interim coach Sutton in any way I can."

Sutton retired as Oklahoma State's coach after the 2005-06 season. He has 798 victories in 36 seasons as a Division I coach at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State.

His retirement came about three months after a drunken-driving accident caused him to miss the Cowboys' final 10 games of the 2005-06 season. Sutton pleaded no contest to misdemeanor aggravated drunken driving and two other charges following the February 2006 car accident.

"I've thought about that, and I would say it probably does (enter into this decision). I certainly didn't want to end my coaching career the way it ended here," Sutton said, speaking from an athletic office at Oklahoma State.

He called his drinking problems a "thing of the past."

"As a recovering alcoholic, you have to work on that every day," he said. "I still attend meetings."

Gore-Mann said she "took Sutton at his word."

KU coach Bill Self, who worked on Sutton's staff at OSU, said he was happy for the coach and for USF.

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

Sutton was scheduled to meet his team in Salt Lake City today and said he would lean heavily on his assistant coaches at first. He hoped to get one practice in with his team before Friday's game.

"I would say it's the toughest challenge 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."

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