Amid the tears, Sutton brings out the smiles
BY JOHN KLEIN World Sports Writer
Feb 1, 2001
1/18/11 at 11:47 AM
STILLWATER -- Eddie Sutton is a pretty darn good basketball coach.
He's even a better human being.
Oklahoma State's extraordinary coach and ambassador soothed the souls of grieving
Oklahomans on Wednesday.
"Let us live every day to the fullest and love our families the best we can," said Sutton.
He turned to family, friends and
neighbors during what surely has been his most trying moments.
Then he stood and delivered. His message of hope for the future was
a celebration of 10 lives.
Sutton, perhaps more than any other person, knew each of the 10 in a very personal manner.
They were friends, colleagues and players.
He brought smiles to the faces of people who had moments earlier cried.
He recalled funny moments and the fond memories of each of the 10.
He called them his brothers and sons.
"I loved all 10 of these men," said Sutton. "Please know this. All 10 of them will always
be a part of OSU basketball.
"We will dedicate ourselves to be the best we can be while realizing we are all fragile.
Time is precious and fleeting."
A grieving state, college basketball fans around the country and the Oklahoma State University
community have drawn on Sutton's reassuring words for the past several days.
He had one more duty on a beautiful winter day in Stillwater, where a gentle chilled breeze
whipped flags at half-staff.
He was called upon to com
fort, as best he could, thousands of grief-stricken people at a memorial service at
It was the fourth day since 10 people associated with the OSU basketball team died in a
tragic plane crash on Saturday night. It was one of three planes carrying the OSU team home
from a game at Colorado.
Sutton, OSU's much-beloved basketball coach, personally handled the task of telling every
parent and wife of those killed in the crash.
He then counseled his team through the first several days of the horrible aftermath.
Finally, Sutton said he had no more words. He admitted as late as Tuesday night that he had
no idea what he would say at the memorial service.
He said he would find words that celebrated the lives of "these very, very special people."
Sutton, along with player Andre Williams, were the only members of the OSU team to speak to
As he has throughout this horrible tragedy, Sutton summoned the strength to put a human
face on unspeakable grief.
"Our hearts are broken by this loss," said Sutton. "The better way to honor our dead is
with gratitude for their lives.
"These were our teammates, co-workers and friends. They were Cowboys."
Sutton, with a strong and firm voice, recounted his fondest memories for all 10 men.
He called pilot Denver Mills of Oklahoma City the safest pilot he ever flew with in more
30 years as a college coach. He said most players liked to fly on Mills' plane after games
"because he was the only one that put food on his plane."
Kendall Durfey will always be remembered by Sutton for his work on the Cowboy radio
broadcasts. Sutton said he will remember Durfey going with him on Mondays to OSU sororities
and fraternities to do the weekly call-in show.
He called Will Hancock the finest sports information officer he worked with in 31 years.
"Will was simply the best," said Sutton.
Brian Luinstra had been with OSU just a year, but Sutton said, "We dearly loved him. Both
he and Will were University of Kansas graduates and they rooted for the Jayhawks, but their
ties were with Oklahoma State."
Sutton struggled to recall his love for broadcaster Bill Teegins. He remembered Teegins as
the most humble broadcaster he ever knew, a true giant in the sports media. "He always had a
smile and kind words for us," said Sutton.
The coach said player Dan Lawson "had the most wonderful smile." He recalled that Lawson
was a magnet for the other players. "I found out earlier today why so many players wanted to
be with him," said Sutton. "He had a lot of lady friends."
He called Nate Fleming "the perfect student-athlete and he dearly loved OSU." In return,
Sutton said the team loved Fleming. "He used to tell the guys to score more points, get a big
lead so he could get in the game."
Jared Weiberg, one of the team managers, was described as "such a nice person." Pat Noyes, an
administrative assistant, was a "tireless worker."
"One of the things I'll really miss is watching Jared and Pat grow into great basketball
coaches," said Sutton.
Pilot Bjorn Fahlstrom used to sit around "and talk Swedish with (player) Fredrik (Jonzen).
No one had any idea what they were saying."
When it was over, Sutton huddled with the victims' families in the future practice gym of
the OSU Athletic Center.
He walked hand-in-hand with wife, Patsy, surrounded by his sons and grandchildren.
"She has kept me going through all of this," said Sutton. "She's my rock."