Arrest latest blow to Sutton basketball family
Sean Sutton seems so much like his father Eddie in so many ways.
He was a scrappy, overachieving college player. His passion for basketball led him to a coaching career. He had a sometimes fiery, aggressive coaching style that often placed a premium on defense.
And now, just like his dad, Sutton apparently is dealing with addiction.
Eddie Sutton's career was derailed, and eventually ended, because of his acknowledged alcoholism. Sean Sutton picked up the pieces of the Oklahoma State program in 2006 after his father's messy departure, then resigned under pressure two years later. Now he is seeking treatment at an inpatient facility, his attorney told a judge, and authorities have charged him with four prescription drug-related felonies.
The prevailing notion among those in this college town is one of sympathy for this latest blow to the Sutton family. Even Payne County District Attorney Rob Hudson, whose office will prosecute the 41-year-old Sutton, acknowledged he was ``saddened'' when he learned of the former coach's Feb. 11 arrest.
``How Mr. Sutton is handling this doesn't surprise me,'' Hudson said. ``He's stepping up to the plate. The first thing that needed to be done was to get inpatient treatment. He's doing that. We'll deal with the criminal charges as the system moves forward.''
Eddie Sutton won 804 games during coaching stints at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and San Francisco. He underwent treatment for alcoholism at the Betty Ford Center in 1987 while he was coach at Kentucky but relapsed in February 2006, when he was involved in a drunken-driving accident in Stillwater.
Sean Sutton took over for his father, but stepped down in April 2008 after going 39-29 in two seasons. At the time, Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder didn't directly address why Sutton was forced out, saying only that Sutton ``was put in a tough situation. It's hard enough to follow a legend. But when that legend is your father, that's probably tough to the third power. Perhaps, in a different set of circumstances, he would have enjoyed more success.''
Outside of a brief statement by Sutton's brother, Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton, no one in the Sutton family has talked about Sean Sutton's troubles since his arrest. His attorney has declined comment.
Paula Nelson, an associate professor of social work at Saint Leo University in Florida, said research has shown that addictive behaviors can be passed from generation to generation.
``That doesn't mean you're going to get it,'' Nelson said. ``There are environmental factors as well. That's where you get into the mushy area of nature versus nurture. ... But there is a genetic basis for addiction.
``Addiction is still really stigmatized,'' she said. ``There's still that old belief that if you're addicted, that's because you're weak, you don't have willpower.''
Authorities became aware in August that Sean Sutton was visiting multiple doctors, attempting to obtain prescription drugs, said Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. Woodward said OBN agents confronted Sutton, who acknowledged he had a problem with the drugs.
Woodward said Sutton checked himself into a treatment facility and maintained weekly contact with OBN agents ``and it sounded like he was doing a lot better.''
Then, in January, the contact stopped. Woodward said ``multiple sources'' told OBN agents that Sutton was ``routinely ordering and illegally possessing'' prescription drug shipments from sources in Washington and New York. After confronting Sutton again, OBN agents arrested him because of the potential danger to the public, Woodward said.
Prosecutors have charged Sutton with obtaining a controlled dangerous substance (oxycodone) by fraud, unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance (oxycodone) without a prescription, attempted possession of controlled dangerous substances (clonazepam and Adderall) and use of a communications device to facilitate a felony. Sutton's attorney, Trace Morgan, has entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Morgan hasn't returned phone messages and did not speak with reporters after Sutton's arraignment last week.
Eddie Sutton has spoken on numerous occasions about his battles with alcoholism. After his retirement from Oklahoma State, he spoke to groups of college students and worked closely with about a half-dozen of them who struggled with gambling addictions.
Eddie Sutton and Oklahoma State had planned to create an alcohol addiction awareness program and facility, but the project was put on hold because of the recession, university spokesman Gary Shutt said.
``Eddie spent most of his efforts on speaking and discussing awareness of addictions,'' Shutt said, instead of fundraising for the proposed facility. The university hasn't ruled out building such a facility, he said.
``If you had the resources, something like that would be beneficial,'' Shutt said.