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OSU's Sutton to reach milestone Wednesday night


STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ The first time Eddie Sutton stepped on a basketball court as a Division I head coach, Richard Nixon was in his first year as president.

The year was 1969 and Sutton was at Creighton. That was 999 games ago. On Wednesday night, he will coach his 1,000th game when his 11th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys play Kansas State.

``It doesn't seem possible, but I guess I've been around a long time,'' Sutton said.

That he has. Sutton, who turns 67 in March, is in his 33rd season as a Division I coach. He spent five years at Creighton, then moved on to Arkansas, where during his 11 seasons he turned the Razorbacks into a force in the Southwest Conference.

From there it was on to Kentucky. He won 32 games in his first season with the Wildcats, but stepped down after just four years amid a messy NCAA investigation that resulted in the school being placed on probation for recruiting violations.

Sutton stayed off the sidelines for one year after he left Kentucky, returning to his alma mater in 1990 when Oklahoma State offered him the job.

He won his first game as a Division I coach _ Creighton beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh 84-64 _ and hasn't stopped. He is 719-280 entering Wednesday night's game, with one losing season in his first 32.

Sutton has taken two schools, Arkansas and Oklahoma State, to the Final Four and was the first coach to take four schools to the NCAA tournament.

He has transformed Oklahoma State's program. Sutton has taken the Cowboys (17-2, 6-1 Big 12) to the NCAA tournament 10 times; they had gone just twice in the previous 31 seasons.

``He's withstood the test of time and I think has just gotten better and better,'' Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy said recently. ``He's a better coach now than he has ever been, and I don't think you can say that about a lot of people.''

Sutton points out that he has actually coached far more than 1,000 games. He spent seven years as a high school coach in Tulsa and three years at Southern Idaho Junior College before getting hired by Creighton.

He doesn't expect many of today's coaches to stick around long enough to reach similar milestones.

``I'll say this again, I don't think there'll be as many young coaches who coach as long as some of us have, for a lot of reasons,'' he said. ``But somehow we've been able to hang in there. As long as my health is good, I'll probably coach a little bit longer.''

Sutton said the game with Kansas State (11-8, 2-4) will be significant only if his team wins. The Wildcats, coming off a two-point overtime loss to Oklahoma on Saturday, are better than they were a year ago.

``I think they've got better players and I think their chemistry's better,'' Sutton said. ``From what I've seen, on certain nights they're really a good basketball team. They haven't probably played as well on the road, like most of us, but it's certainly the best Kansas State team, in my opinion, that we've played since the Big 12 was formed.''
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