Layna Dewell, News9.com
TULSA, Oklahoma – When Sean Sutton takes the court for the first time with the Oral Roberts men's basketball team this season, not only will he be embracing his new assistant coaching position, but he will also be embracing progress.
The 42-year-old has seen more ups and downs in the last three years than many will see in a decade, or even in their life.
After a battle with prescription drugs that came to a staggering halt in February 2010 when Sutton was arrested for attempting to obtain a controlled or dangerous substance by fraud, the coach has a new lease and attitude toward life.
"I've tried to turn a very difficult situation at the time into something positive," said Sutton. "I'm excited to get that behind me and I am looking forward to moving forward in my life."
Just five days ago a judge dismissed the drug case against Sutton and expunged his record one year into his three-year deferred sentence.
Without objection from the district attorney's office Judge Stephen Kistler granted the motion to accelerate the deferment because Sutton met and exceeded all terms and conditions of his deferment requirements.
"This has helped me put a lot of things in perspective when you go through something like this," said Sutton. "Sometimes we all lose touch of what's really important."
Just from our short conversation, it was easy to tell that Sean Sutton is definitely more in touch than ever with his priorities.
"Number one is to continue to focus on my recovery because without that I am no good anywhere. It's gotta be the number one priority each day as I wake up," said Sutton. "I'm in a good place mentally, but I have to work at it every day."
After coaching at Oklahoma State as an assistant for 13 years with his father Eddie, and serving as the head coach of the Cowboys for two years, Sean resigned from his position on April 1, 2008.
"It's no secret that I struggled out of coaching and that's where my addiction stemmed from," said Sutton.
Less than two years later, Sutton was facing a very public prescription drug case after he pleaded guilty to the four felony counts of attempting to possess controlled dangerous substances.
Since that rude awakening, Sutton has spent countless hours working on himself as well as working for the benefit of others struggling with the same addiction. Coach Sutton says one of the most beneficial parts of his recovery was when he had to put his recovery program in action.
"One of the 12 steps is carrying the message forward to people that may suffer or find themselves in a spot where they're struggling with addiction," said Sutton.
"I've had a lot of personal, private sessions with people struggling, with families where someone is struggling," said Sutton. "I really don't talk a lot about (those sessions), but it's very beneficial to me."
"Hopefully I have been able to help educate some people on the dangers of prescription drugs and prevent people from making some of the mistakes I made," said Sutton.
Without question, Sean's love for the game of basketball is as strong as ever, and as he continues forward, the game continues to be an integral part of his progress.
"I think I've always been very competitive and I missed the competition that comes with coaching," said Sutton. "I've missed the interaction with the student athletes and players and I think that's the thing that I am most looking forward to doing again and being a part of it."
One thing was evident, the love of the game is the same, but the effect the game has on his life is much different.
"I love basketball and I love coaching, but it's not going to be the thing that drives me every day," said Sutton. "My family and my faith are the two most important things in my life."
So the progress continues for Sean. After serving as an executive adviser to the ORU men's team last year, this basketball season Sean will serve as an assistant coach to his brother Scott who is the head coach of the Golden Eagles.
"I am very grateful for the opportunity that Dr. Rutland and Mike Carter and my brother have given me to get back into coaching," said Sutton. "You have something to look forward to everyday that you like doing and I always feel like that has a positive effect on your mindset, so I'm enjoying it."
So what's next for the ORU assistant? Sutton says his recovery, faith and family are the main things he is focusing on and the rest comes as a bonus in the form of the game he loves.
"I love basketball and I'm glad to be back a part of it," said Sutton. "Hopefully in time I'll have the chance to go back and be a head coach again."