John Klein: Sutton sticks with ORU, winning habit
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, March 02, 2012
3/02/12 at 4:21 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog
Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton is likely to be a hot commodity when college basketball jobs start to pop open over the next month.
First, there is work to be done starting Saturday at the Summit League Tournament.
ORU is the No. 1 seed and has a probable decent seed in the NCAA Tournament if the Golden Eagles can win the conference tournament.
Oral Roberts is trying to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in seven years.
That record of getting to the NCAA Tournament, the standard for college basketball success, will be attractive for schools looking to upgrade in college basketball.
But Sutton has remained loyal to ORU for 17 years, bypassing jobs because he is comfortable in Tulsa and believes winning is not only possible but probable at Oral Roberts.
Winning has certainly become a habit for ORU under Sutton.
"I think it is important to love what you are doing and who you are doing it with," Sutton said. "My family certainly loves living here in Tulsa. We're very comfortable here.
"And, I really like working for Oral Roberts University and Mike Carter (athletic director). Mike gave me a chance to be the head coach and he has been fabulous support for us the entire time we've been here. That has made this a very good job for me."
It has also made it tough on Sutton to leave. He's had other offers, most notably Wichita State, a high mid-major program that is currently ranked in the top 15 in the country and expected to be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Sutton flip-flopped on whether to take the WSU job, deciding on the drive back to Tulsa to change his mind and stay with ORU. As a result, Oral Roberts has continued to flourish under a coach that expected to be doing "anything other than coaching."
Sutton, the son of legendary coach Eddie Sutton, and younger brother of former Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton, didn't expect to get into the family business.
After graduation, Scott moved home to live with his parents and make a decision about his future.
"I didn't have a job but I was a business major and I just figured I'd get into business," Sutton said. "My father had been urging me to get into anything other than coaching."
However, coaching was in his blood. Bill Self, then the new coach at Oral Roberts, called Sutton's father to get some recommendations for an administrative assistant - a low-paying, entry-level job in college basketball.
"I was listening to my dad talk to coach Self and they were talking about all of these possibilities," Sutton said. "I started thinking to myself that I was interested in that job.
"I figured I'd give coaching a shot and then get on with my life in business."
Instead, Sutton loved it. He did every possible job as the lowest paid assistant, including color commentary on the radio broadcasts of ORU basketball.
"I had a lot of fun doing the radio with Al (Jerkens)," Sutton said. "I think with everything included I made about $9,000 that first year."
He was elevated to full-time assistant when Barry Hinson, Self's top assistant at ORU and now the director of basketball operations at Kansas, was promoted to head coach at Oral Roberts.
When Hinson took off for Missouri State, Sutton became head coach.
"I can't believe I've been here 17 years," Sutton said. "When Bill moved to Tulsa, I considered going across town with him. I couldn't have gone wrong either direction I went. Bill has gone on to such incredible things.
"But, I stayed at ORU with Barry and this opportunity came open for me a few years later. I don't think about what-ifs because I've been so happy. It has worked out fantastic for me and my family."
And, ORU has been happy with Sutton. He returned the Golden Eagles to relevance in college basketball.
He pushed the program back into the NCAA Tournament and has a chance to put ORU into the NCAAs for the fourth time in seven years. The Eagles are a legitimate mid-major power and fans have responded, regularly showing up at the Mabee Center in numbers not seen since the 1970s.
"My boss, Mike, is more like a family member than a boss," Sutton said. "We really do love it here. And, I believe there is so much more we can do here. We want to win games in the NCAA Tournament, something I hope we have a chance to do this year.
"I don't know about the future but I do know it would take something very special to think about leaving. It would have to be a special opportunity. That may come some time in the future. Who knows? But, I have a great job. I love it here. I'm excited about what we have a chance to do in the next few weeks."
Original Print Headline: Sutton sticks with ORU, winning habit
Summit League Tournament
Vs. IPFW (in Sioux Falls, S.D.)
6 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KYAL fm97.1, am1550