Opinion: Eddie Sutton documentary begs question — doesn't former Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton deserve another head coaching job?
Sean Sutton, if you're out there, I want you to know one thing.
You deserve a hug.
After watching the new documentary about Eddie Sutton — "EDDIE: The Cost of Greatness" made its debut Monday night on ESPN — I realized there were many things I didn't know about the legendary coach's life. How he took his first college coaching job at a school that hadn't actually been built. How his soured relationship with the Arkansas athletic director was what ultimately prompted him to leave Fayetteville. How bad Eddie's drinking was in his second season at Kentucky.
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Maybe I knew those things and forgot, but they were all compelling parts of the film.
Nothing, though, was more compelling than Sean Sutton — and I guarantee much of what I learned about him were things I never knew.
I'm not sure anyone knew much about them.
Sean, the second of Eddie and Patsy Sutton's three sons, is well-known in our neck of the woods. He played at OSU for his dad, then coached alongside him in Stillwater for more than a decade.
When Eddie took a medical leave after a Feb. 2006 car accident — he pleaded no contest to drunk driving charges — Sean took over the Cowboys mid-season. He coached OSU for the next two seasons.
Then, of course, came the drug arrest in Feb. 2010. Sean Sutton tried to illegally obtain prescription painkillers, charges to which he eventually pleaded guilty. He went into rehab and says he has been sober for more than a decade.
In the years since, he has returned to coaching. Assistant to his brother Scott at Oral Roberts for six years. Advisor to the head coach at Texas Tech for three years.
But what about being a head coach again?
I started thinking about that as I watched Sean bare his soul in "EDDIE." The doc is about Eddie Sutton, of course, but Sean becomes every bit as compelling as his father. Sean tells of growing up, dreaming of playing for his father but also holding out hope of playing at Kentucky. He never imagined that he'd have a chance to do both, which he ultimately did in the late 80s.
But he also tells of the times that his dad's alcoholism was at its worst. Eddie Sutton went to rehab and got clean repeatedly over the years, sometimes for long stretches, but when he would fall off the wagon, he was not a very good husband to Patsy or father to Sean. Everyone in the family agreed in the documentary that Patsy and Sean got the brunt of Eddie's meanness. It wasn't physical. It was verbal.
And it hurt.
The tears Sean shed in the film while talking about it were evidence of that.
Seeing him break down as he talked about those days was the most difficult part of the documentary. Of course, the film from the plane crash and the days that followed were extremely tough, too, but I was prepared for that emotion. I wasn't ready to see Sean Sutton with tears falling as he recounted some of the hurtful things his dad said when he was drunk.
Sean vowed he would never fall into addiction like his father had.
Then, he did.
Even though he sought help and found sobriety, I suspect what happened in 2010 is still a barrier after all these years. I don't know if Sean Sutton has sought any head coaching jobs since leaving OSU, but I know he's good enough to be a head coach. He was largely a co-head coach with his dad all those years in Stillwater. So, the Big 12 titles? The NCAA Tournament trips? The Final Four teams? Sean had a big hand in all of it.
In "EDDIE," one of the former Cowboy players referred to Sean as the smartest coach he'd ever been around — and Sean was a young coach then. Think of all he's learned in the years since.
I don't know if Sean Sutton will be a head coach again. Maybe he doesn't want to go that route. Perhaps he prefers teaching in the wings and planning behind the scenes while someone else handles the limelight. But surely a college somewhere -- might have to be a small one to start with -- would be lucky to have Sean Sutton as head coach.
He deserves a shot.
And yes, a hug.