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Shawnee coach Arthur glad about long-awaited announcement of Sutton's induction

Brian Johnson

Ron Arthur echoed the sentiments of many Oklahomans Saturday when it was officially announced that legendary Oklahoma State men's head basketball coach Eddie Sutton will be inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame.

“It's about time. I'm very happy for Coach Sutton. It probably should have been done years ago,” said Arthur, the Shawnee High School boys' head basketball coach. “I wish it would have happened earlier because of his failing health. Obviously he won't be able to speak (at the induction ceremony), but everyone is happy for him.”

Sutton is scheduled to be inducted on Aug. 29 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Arthur was a student team manager for five years at Oklahoma State - two years under head coach Leonard Hamilton and three under Sutton - from 1988-93.

“I don't think it matters much to him, but it matters more to the rest of us, knowing that he is deserving of this honor,” Arthur said. “I just wished it would've happened a little earlier in his life.”

Arthur says he learned much from Sutton about basketball, but talks more about the life lessons he passed on. One of those is how Sutton treated people in general.

“Growing up around Coach Sutton, it wasn't about him. It was about people whether it was the secretary, work study people, those in the business office, ticket sellers, he treated everybody special,” said Arthur. “He treated others like you would want to be treated.”

Arthur remembers the times that Sutton would fly commercially and the business cards he would accumulate from those he sat with on the plane.

“He told us about the stories and the encounters he had with these people,” Arthur said.

Arthur remembers an instance when Sutton visited with someone on the plane and then when Sutton got back, he would have Arthur or another team manager send something to them. He remembers sending a couple of t-shirts to some grandchildren of those he visited with and sent an autographed team picture to another couple he visited with who were OU fans.

“They said they enjoyed watching his teams play,” said Arthur. “With random people, he would always write letters and showed appreciation for the time he spent with them.”

Arthur remembers Sutton sending a letter to Texas Tech women's star Sheryl Swoopes after she won the Naismith Women's Player of the Year Award in 1993.

“He wrote her a congratulatory letter and never met her,” Arthur said.

Sutton's reach was extremely evident according to Arthur. None other than legendary Sooner head football coach Barry Switzer was in Sutton's office one time and Arthur was walking through and took a double-take.

“Coach Sutton is real close with Barry Switzer in their work through Special Olympics,” said Arthur. “I met Coach Switzer. Even though he coached OU football, I always admired him.”

Arthur remembers another instance when Sutton and Switzer were together about 10-12 years ago at an Oklahoma City Thunder game. Also in the contingent was former Texas Tech and Houston head coach and OSU assistant James Dickey among others.

“Coach Sutton had me snapping pictures of the group and I thought I don't work for you anymore,” Arthur joked. “I think I took about 10-12 photos. I thought why am I not in the pictures?”

One of the unusual life lessons Arthur learned under Sutton's direction was etiquette.

“We went to the student union and learned the proper use of forks and napkins. Coach Sutton felt is was important that when we go to places to be presentable,” said Arthur. “At times we might be at places that were unique or elegant. With Coach Sutton it had everything to do with the representation of Oklahoma State.”

Arthur was in the middle of the transition of coaching regimes from Hamilton to Sutton and Reebok to Nike.

“Coach (Sutton) wouldn't pass out the the new gear until we deserved it. It's only when he felt like it. He said you are not entitled to anything,” Arthur said.

Of course the coaching factor made an obvious impact on Arthur.

“He was unbelievable with the Xs and Os especially the Xs...defense,” said Arthur. “He was doing what Coach (Henry) Iba was doing back in the day. Bill Self continues it at Kansas and Chris Beard at Texas Tech. I tell my (Shawnee) guys that we do the same kinds of drills that they did. It was Mr. Iba's philosophy.”

Arthur remembers the Hamilton-to-Sutton transition being tough on the players because of the camaraderie with Hamilton and the staff.

“Everyone learned about Coach Sutton. We didn't know much about him at first,” Arthur said. “Once we got to know Coach Sutton it took a bit to win the guys over and buy in.”

However, the timing of Sutton's arrival to his alma mater was important, according to Arthur.

“Unfortunately at OSU, our football team was taking a hit. We needed something that would give us a spark and spirit to campus and he did that,” said Arthur. “With the basketball team going to the Sweet 16 and people lining up to get into games, it created a different atmosphere.”

Arthur considers Sutton to be the ultimate program builder. Sutton left his first successful coaching stint at Tulsa Central High School to launch the new men's basketball program at Southern Idaho College. Then came major college coaching stints at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, OSU and ending with a brief interim one at San Francisco University.

The results were 806 career victories, 11th on the all-time coaching list. He was the first coach to lead four different teams to the NCAA Tournament, including three to the Final Four, and he was a two-time recipient of the Associated Press National Coach of the Year award (1978 with Arkansas and 1986 with Kentucky).

“He's a program builder. He had the ability to touch lives and build programs,” Arthur said. “I'm proud to be a small part of Coach Sutton's career. He did a lot for the program, university, city of Stillwater and the state. I'm so thankful to learn from him about basketball and life. I'm glad to be associated with him. It is a special day for the Cowboy family.”