ESPN premiered the tell-all documentary on Hall of Fame head coach Eddie Sutton last night and it was great. “Eddie” pulls back the curtain to reveal Sutton’s complicated life and career, including his four troubled seasons at Kentucky. We also see his crowning achievements in basketball at Arkansas, Oklahoma State and beyond, as well as his handling of the lowest of lows, the 2001 plane crash that took the lives of 10 members of his Oklahoma State basketball program.
You should watch the entire two-hour documentary because it’s a very open and honest look at Sutton the coach and person, the good and bad. For now, I’ll share with you my five takeaways from the Kentucky portion:
Kentucky Dunks and mustaches.
We’ll begin with my favorite part of the video: “Times are changing at Kentucky. Players are wearing a new brand of shoe, roughly akin to the Michael Jordan model. And they can wear mustaches.”
Was Roger Harden the best PG ever?
Harden’s time in the UK backcourt predates my UK fandom, so I know very little about his career. I do know he was Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana before coming to Lexington and he now ranks third on the program’s all-time assists list, but as for actually seeing him play, these eyeballs haven’t witnessed much.
Then “Eddie” showed clips of Harden throwing no-look, over-the-head and behind-the-back passes for open dunks, and it made him look like Pistol Pete. It was only four or five highlights mixed in here and there, but I’m impressed. When’s the Roger Harden documentary?
The documentary didn’t hide the worst of Coach Sutton’s battles with alcohol.
Jerry Tipton shared a rumor of Sutton’s DUI cover-up. Rob Bromley passed along the time he heard Sutton fell face first on concrete while walking into the arena. Then the most surprising, to me, was when Rex Chapman said, “I’ve never told anybody this, but most of my freshman year he was drunk.”
Chapman recalled the big win at Louisville in 1986 (when King Rex scored 26 points in Freedom Hall) and said Sutton was drunk in the postgame press conference when he hugged Chapman in front of reporters.
Sutton’s long struggle with alcohol was well-known, but Chapman’s own experiences were told for the first time in “Eddie.”
Then came the turnaround before the next season. “He picked himself up and dusted himself off, and he was sober. And it was great.” Chapman doesn’t think Sutton had a drop of alcohol during the 1987-88 season.
Show us the boosters’ faces!
Of course, the Emory package scandal made its way into the documentary. The boosters are to blame, we’re told once again.
ARE THESE THE BOOSTERS SHOW US THEIR FACES
Sutton’s resignation from Kentucky was announced in the WKYT newsroom?
Different times. Can you imagine John Calipari preparing his resignation from Kentucky as someone drives him over to WKYT so he can announce it from Dave Baker’s desk?
A couple clips from Sutton’s resignation, as seen in “Eddie”…
Watch “Eddie” in its entirety here.