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DO - Candid conversation

Discussion in 'OSU Sports Forum' started by Doafhat, Jan 31, 2007.

  1. Doafhat

    Staff A/V Subscriber Doafhat 決して忘れない

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    Candid conversation
    By Berry Tramel
    Staff Writer

    STILLWATER — In winters past, we talked NCAA seeds and shot selection, gritty defense and winning tough road games, big rivalries and old foes.

    This winter, we talked treatment centers and support groups and cross addictions. Such is the new life of Eddie Sutton, basketball coach emeritus at Oklahoma State and our state's most famous alcoholic.

    Sutton once shied away from his demon. Avoided AA meetings because he felt ill at ease; quickly curtailed his comments when talking about his recovery.

    That was then. Now, sitting in a Gallagher-Iba Arena office before tipoff of the OSU-Iowa State game, Sutton talked more openly about the alcoholism that prematurely ended his career.

    "Nothing wrong in drinking, if you know when to stop,” Sutton said. "You have to have some discipline. But you must understand, there's a danger there.”

    That's the message Sutton delivers to students when asked to speak. That's the message he says he has given his three sons and some day will give his grandchildren.

    Heritage puts them at greater risk, Sutton said; they have the gene that makes them susceptible to alcoholism. Doctors have told him 10 percent of the population possesses that gene.

    Sutton came to Stillwater sober. Both times. He started drinking as a college student in the 1950s; he resumed drinking about three years ago, he said, because of back pain.

    Sutton developed a bad back — calls himself the Hunchback — and doctors wouldn't subscribe adequate pain pills because of the fear of cross-addiction.

    "I was hurting so bad, I would get something to drink,” Sutton said.

    Such tonic didn't work, either, as Sutton finally discovered last Feb. 10, when he drove drunk and crashed into a Chevy Suburban. Sutton eventually pleaded guilty of aggravated drunken driving and in May retired after 37 seasons as a major-college head coach.

    Addiction is a cruel foe. Sutton did not come to OSU with all the necessary ammunition.

    At Kentucky, Sutton joined a private support group made of very public figures. An ex-governor, two horsemen who had won the Kentucky Derby, lawyers, prominent businesspeople. Most addiction counselors say regular meetings are essential to sustain recovery.

    Sutton did not find such a support group in Stillwater.

    "I felt ill at ease,” Sutton said.

    So while Sutton rebuilt OSU basketball with rapid and remarkable success, he internally fought a fight he could not win. He says he has learned his lesson and now regularly goes to AA meetings in either Tulsa or Stillwater. Even says a new meeting has started in the OSU student union that he needs to get to.

    He appreciates it when an OSU student is in one of the meetings and comes up to chat afterward. Few 70-year-olds have gripped a college crowd like Sutton gripped Stillwater. Students would chant his name and cheer his antics. Now, they listen to his simple advice.

    Sutton is responsible for the new Gallagher-Iba, the magnificent coliseum that somehow doubled in size and lost no ambiance. Now he seeks another new campus building, a $5 million addiction recovery center for students. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, all could be treated at the facility.

    Sutton says OSU has one campus addiction counselor, who has seen more than 1,500 students. He is raising money for the center that could treat 80-100 students at a time.

    Sutton works PR a couple of days a week for a Tulsa bank and dotes on his nine grandchildren and drops by OSU's or Oral Roberts' practices, where his sons are head coaches.

    Games are excruciating. Helpless, he calls the feeling, and after more than 50 years of having some control over the outcome of basketball games, now Sutton must sit and watch. While he has courtside seats at Gallagher-Iba, he often retreats to a luxury suite at halftime.

    How long would Sutton have coached had the demon not regained control? He says not long. He had 794 victories when he was arrested; Sutton said he might have resigned after getting to 800.

    Sutton always wanted to turn over the program to Sean in good shape, and this season certainly qualified, although when the Cowboys started losing a batch of players, "I said, ‘Oh, no.'” But Sean has rallied OSU to an 18-3 record and a No. 12 national ranking.

    "The thing I miss about coaching is not the games,” Sutton said. "It's the day-to-day fellowship you have with coaches and players. That's why I stop in.”

    He comes to OSU practices a couple of days a week, just as Henry Iba did for two seasons when Sutton returned as coach, and still grabs hugs from players and offers a pep talk. He sat down with Mario Boggan last Friday, after two straight poor games by the State star, "just to build him up.”
  2. barryrules

    barryrules Cowboy

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    You gotta love Eddie, he has done so much for this university.
  3. Poke2000

    Poke2000 Cowboy

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    Overall, a very good article. Of course, I'd prefer to think of Coach Sutton as our state's most famous basketball coach rather than it's most famous alcoholic, but I see how it fits with his theme. Good stuff.
  4. Paul

    A/V Subscriber Paul Cowboy

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    I wonder what a "just build him up" talk would sound like. Would it be different if he was the coach?

    Eddie is going to leave a great and lasting legacy on OSU. He has done a great job of turning his negatives into a blessing for others.
  5. OStateMan

    Banned OStateMan Banned

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    I like the part where Eddie says that drinking is okay as long as it's in moderation, instead of taking the hard line of drinking is bad no matter what.

    However, I kinda feel that the part about not having the support group in Stillwate is a bit of a copout.

    He was surrounded by family and friends -- those that would do anything to help in time of crisis. Yet, he didn't rely on them.
    I suppose he preferred to have a bigger, more powerful crutch to lean on as a supporter.

    Don't get me wrong....I love Eddie and everything he's done for our university.
    I would kiss his ring given the chance.

    I do wish he'd have stayed clean, even long enough to take the 800 wins or more to his credit.
    So close, yet so far away.

    Just my passing thoughts on the article.
  6. Poke4Christ

    Poke4Christ Cowboy

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    To know Eddie isn't just to know his coaching, but the whole of who he is. His story isn't about what brought him down, but what he overcomes. To remove the trials and down times would remove from who he is and detract from the times of triumph. Let us remember the whole man so that we can remember him for all that he is.
  7. Paul

    A/V Subscriber Paul Cowboy

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    I only disagree with one thing. Sometimes it is harder to admit your wrongs to your family and closest friends. Of course it all depends on the person, but I can kinda see it in this instance. Eddie is so looked up to by everybody it may be easier to talk to strangers/people he didn't know very well. Of course now that it is in the open he will talk to anybody.

    Of course I have no factual data to back this up, just my opinion.
  8. Bucco63

    Bucco63 Cowboy

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    Most famous alcholic??? maybe in the sports world, but let's not sell Gary Busey short!!
  9. bleedaggie

    Staff A/V Subscriber bleedaggie Moderator

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    Well said.
  10. ostatedan

    ostatedan Greenhorn

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    Nice! I was thinking the same thing. Great article, but it was a bit over the top to call him the states most famous alcoholic. Coach Sutton has done enough good in his life to deserve better than that, personal weaknesses aside.
  11. Verb

    Verb Cowboy

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    Great article, but it does get you to wondering how exactly one subscribes to pain pills? Do they come every month, like magazine subscriptions?
  12. Paul

    A/V Subscriber Paul Cowboy

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    Yeah, this afternoon I am going to Walgreens to get my subscription filled.
  13. OKState918

    OKState918 Cowboy

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    You've got a valid point, but I think in reference to the support center Eddie's trying to create, he's absolutely correct.

    Think about it this way - for many students (Eddie's target), they're away from family and their friends are (more often than not) at least a partial cause of their problems.

    This isn't to say that all college students are forcing their friends to binge drink or anything like that, but to be perfectly frank, if I wanted to seek treatment for an alcohol addiction, I doubt my drinking buddies (no matter how good of friends we might be) would be the first people I'd want to talk to.

    Instead, I think it would be a great thing to have a center on-campus where students could seek professional help. Eddie was telling me that as of right now, OSU has one (yes, one) professional addiction counselor to deal with roughly 20,000 students. That's absolutely ridiculous - especially in a college environment - so even students seeking help might have trouble.

    Anyway - I do agree, OStateMan (you don't hear me say that often do you, haha?) that Eddie is doing the right thing by keeping things in proper perspective. He knows kids are going to drink. That's just part of college. I think his message is much more effective, however, in that he is simply urging them to make wise decisions and not let their habits get the better of them.

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