The treasured history of basketball at Oklahoma State University
is one of the richest amongst all major programs in college
basketball today. Oklahoma State was the first school to
claim back-to-back NCAA championships in the sport, and Mr.
Henry P. Iba - the architect of those championships - is
arguably the most influential coach in the history of
the game. With two national championships, six Final Four
appearances and one of the game's grandest old cathedrals,
Cowboy Basketball is steeped in tradition.
Mr. Henry Iba - Head
Written by the late Bill Connors, Tulsa World Sports Editor (Jan. 16, 1993)
personal. Mr. Henry Iba was the most principled, modest, loyal,
gracious, dignified and considerate man I ever met. It was no
contest. Knowing him was the greatest privilege I have experienced
in 40 years of reporting on the people who shaped the athletic
From Tobacco Road to Bloomington, Ind., from Los Angeles to the
U.S. Senate, the old lions and the new lions of basketball said much
the same thing while he was alive.
Whether Mr. Iba coached them at Oklahoma State or in the Olympics
or counseled them at clinics or at his home in retirement, they knew
him as John Wooden described him: "Basketball's greatest friend and
I knew there would come a day when God would say we had enjoyed
Mr. Iba long enough and He needed him in another place to install a
delay game or improve a defense.
If Mr. Iba could hear the tributes, he would surely say, "Cut
that foolishness out." Those are the words he used countless times
to erring players and to those who praised him in public.
Mr. Iba never talked about his accomplishments. Never. He did not
talk much about the past or how he became known as the high priest
of defense. Even in his 23 years of retirement, he was preoccupied
with today and his proteges' next games, not his national
championships, not the past. He did not seek the spotlight but he
could not avoid it; he was too successful, too influential, too
innovative, too involved in landmark events.
Mr. Iba was no saint. He was a salty man's man who liked Scotch
in moderation and had a wonderful wit that cracked up audiences of
cronies on fishing trips or associates on plane flights or players
during pregame talks.
He was a tough soul. They did not call him the Iron Duke for
nothing. He was the quintessential taskmaster whose passion for
discipline had no limit. He could deliver the most searing of tongue
lashings during four-hour practices and burn the ears of a referee
with whom he disagreed. His booming voice added to his intimidating
But, when a game ended, his game face was put away and the
ferocious rival was once again a friend who took legendary opponents
like Ray Meyer and Clair Bee to dinner. He was so fair, so
supportive, as quick to praise players as he was to reprimand them
that he was held with ultimate respect and affection.
There was never a hint of scandal about him in his professional
or personal life. Except in the most casual of situations, he always
wore a coat and tie in public. His conduct in mixed company was
exemplary. His unflagging spirit and concern for others made you
feel better for merely being in his presence.
He always ended every telephone conversation by saying, "Thank
you for calling." He never seemed to grasp that it was the callers
who should have offered thanks.
But Mr. Iba did one awful thing: he succeeded in making us think
for the longest time that he was not special. Hence, we expect other
coaching giants to walk on the same unsullied pedestal and were
disappointed when they did not. That was unfair to them. There was
only one Henry Payne Iba.
How did he rank as a coach? Coaching giants who competed against
him and observed him were as captivated as those with subjective
roots to Iba's coaching tree. A favorite assessment of Iba came in a
1991 letter from Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who said:
"Coach Iba, in my estimation, is the greatest coach in the
history of the game of basketball. He epitomizes what a coach must
do on and off the court, and the manner in which it should be done.
Everything he did and continues to do, from the way he handled
people to the way he dressed, was an example of how things should be
done on this level."
In a guest column in 1987, Bob Knight said he considered Iba to
be among the "four or five coaches who made great innovative
contributions to basketball. Mr. Iba did it before there was anyone
for him to copy. He was the first to run the motion offense. He was
the first to incorporate the 'help' principles of zone defenses with
man-to-man defense. He opened up the game for the big man."
U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, who was a member of the
1964 U.S. Olympic team that Iba coached to a gold medal in Tokyo,
said in a letter to the coach:
"... more inspiring and more important to me than the basketball
instruction were the hints on how to live a more worthwhile life,
which were sprinkled throughout practice sessions, team meetings and
casual remarks. Now I understand why men are always proud when they
say, 'Mr. Iba was my coach.' So am I."
What endeared Iba to his players was the countless favors he did
on their behalf after their eligibility was completed. Whether it
was Bob Kurland, superstar of his 1945 and '46 national champions,
or the lowliest reserve on one of the losing teams that marred his
final years, Iba treated them like sons.
Iba transcended the coaching box. When OSU honored him with a
distinguished service award, Mickey Holmes, executive director of
the Sugar Bowl who formerly worked in the Big Eight Conference
office, captured the essence of the day when he said, "An
institution is honoring its institution."
What made Iba so popular with coaches was his devotion to
basketball. In retirement, he worked to improve the game, to
encourage coaches with integrity to remain in the profession and to
help any coach, regardless of philosophy, who sought a better job or
advice or encouragement. More than any of the legends of his
generation, Iba was perceived as basketball's godfather; the giant
to whom giants bowed.
The surest way to increase turnout at a coaching function was to
honor Iba. Sponsors of the All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City
never attracted more than participating coaches for their
promotional golf tournaments until they staged it around a dinner
for Iba in 1988. Suddenly, Dean Smith and Bobby Knight flew in.
At a Final Four press conference in 1967, UCLA's Wooden explained
why he delayed endorsing a shot clock, even though he favored such
legislation. He waited until studies convinced him, Wooden said,
"that a shot clock would not hurt Mr. Iba. I would never be a part
of anything that hurt Mr. Iba. He is basketball's greatest friend
and finest gentleman."
Until failing health grounded him, VIP coaches and obscure
coaches flocked to Stillwater to talk shop and brought him to their
campuses to critique their teams. They did not go merely to pay
"I love being around him because he is such a great guy and so
much fun," Knight said. "But the main reason I talk basketball with
him is that I get so much out of it."
A coach did not need to be a protege or have VIP credentials to
enjoy Iba's counsel. Toledo's Larry Gipson had never met Iba when he
left high school coaching in Ohio to become an assistant at Tulsa in
the mid-80s. Gipson asked and received Iba's permission to come to
Stillwater and talk basketball. "He treated me like I was Bobby
Knight," Gipson said.
The only thing Iba would not do for coaches who sought his help
was - and he told them up front - help them in any competition they
might have with OSU.
Oh, how he loved the school whose payroll he graced for 36 years.
"Our school," and "our place," he would say of OSU. Anyone who
played at OSU, no matter what sport, was in favor with Mr. Iba.
The late Sparky Stallcup, who played for Iba at Maryville (Mo.)
and became coach at Missouri, was scolded by Iba when he asked why
Iba tried to secure a job for a former player who had lost a job
because of unbecoming conduct.
"Why, he went to school at our place," Iba said.
The affection Iba felt for OSU and his class were illustrated
when he was asked to speak to a group of freshmen during orientation
week in 1949. Iba was at the peak of his career. OSU had been '49
runner-up for the national championship that it won in '45 and '46.
Iba did not mention himself or his team or athletics. Instead, he
told the freshmen how fortunate they were to attend college, that
they should make the most of their opportunities and to remember
their parents by writing them at least once a week.
Even an 18-year-old freshman recognized this was more than a Hall
of Fame coach.
Mr. Henry P. Iba
Career Record: 767-338
OSU Record: 655-316
12th in All-Time Wins
Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
Oklahoma Hall of Fame
Missouri Hall of Fame
OSU Hall of Honor
2 National Championships
3-Time U.S. Olympic Coach
Henry Iba, pictured with John Wooden and
Adolph Rupp - three of the most influential coaches in the
sport of basketball.
"He was perhaps the greatest coach of all time,
and a truly outstanding human being whom I could count on as a
friend. Whether he realized it or not, he has touched every
coach's philosophy in the game."
"Everybody recognized Mr. Iba as a great
coach, but what set him aside was the fact he was a great
person, a caring person. Even the people he coached against
had great warmth for him. Too often in the coaching
profession, we don't find that, but I've not met a coach
that knew Mr. Iba that didn't have the utmost respect for
- Eddie Sutton
"For many years, he's come and watched
practice for three or four days and I always got something
out of it because at the end I recall he'd come down here
and tell me what he thought about each and every player and
I don't recall him ever being wrong."
- Don Haskins
"I didn't play for him, but my coach (Don
Haskins) did. He (Haskins) made me start thinking of players as
part of a family and he got that from Mr. Iba. I'll never forget
coach Haskins telling me I was in the family tree. Mr. Iba had a
large number of members of the family tree."
- Nolan Richardson
"When you compare him to a modern coach today who
finds talent that already exists, the difference is Mr. Iba was
a true coach, a teacher, a mentor, who taught the fundamentals
of the game."
- Bob Kurland
Eddie Sutton - Head Coach 1990-2006
When someone thinks of consistency, there's no better comparison
than the coaching career of Eddie Sutton. The gentleman that spent
16 years returning his alma mater to the pinnacle of excellence has
been a constant on the college basketball scene for nearly four
Following his 16th and final season at Oklahoma State and
his 36th season overall at the Division I level, Coach Sutton ranked
fifth among all-time collegiate coaches with his 798 victories. In
2005-06, he surpassed Lefty Driesell on the all-time winningest
Sutton became just the 14th coach in Division I history to record
700 wins in a career with Oklahoma State's 85-80 win over the Texas
Longhorns in Austin on Feb. 20, 2002.
Under his guidance, OSU advanced to postseason play in 15 of 16
years, including 13 NCAA Tournament appearances. He won 20 games or
more on 13 occasions in his tenure at Oklahoma State.
No active coach ranked ahead of Sutton in both victories and
winning percentage when his career ended, and OSU's boss ranked
behind only Dean Smith in victories through 35 or fewer years of
Sutton, who previously coached at Creighton, Arkansas and
Kentucky, was the first coach in NCAA history to lead four different
schools to the national tournament and was joined in the exclusive
club by Driesell and Jim Harrick following the 2000-01 campaign.
In his 16 seasons in Stillwater, Sutton guided the Cowboys to 13
NCAA Tournament appearances, 13 20-win seasons, and seven first- or
second-place finishes in conference play. OSU's NCAA Tournament
appearance in 2005 marked its eighth-consecutive postseason
appearance, the longest streak in school history.
In 2004-05, OSU spent the entire season ranked in the top 10
nationally for the first time since the 1953-54 season. The Cowboys
advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, one of only three
teams to have accomplished that feat in both 2004 and 2005. Oklahoma
State advanced to the championship game of the league tournament for
the sixth time under Sutton, and won the Big 12 Tournament title for
the second consecutive year.
In 2003-04, Coach Sutton took a group of transfers and
transformed them into a Final Four contender. The Cowboys advanced
to the Final Four for the second time under Sutton, and became one
of just 10 programs nationally to have made at least two appearances
at the Final Four in the previous 10 years. The Pokes won 31 games,
tying for the most in a single season in school history. OSU won
both the Big 12 Conference regular-season title and the Big 12
Sutton earned Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year honors in a
vote by both the league coaches and the media. It was his eighth
such honor, including his third at Oklahoma State.
During the 1999-2000 campaign, the Cowboys reached the Sweet 16
for the fourth time in Sutton's Cowboy career. OSU went on to the
Elite Eight for the first time since the 1995 Final Four campaign,
making OSU one of just 10 schools to reach the regional semifinals
twice in the previous seven tournaments.
The 1997-98 season turned out to be one of milestones for Sutton,
who reached the 600-victory plateau when OSU defeated Texas A&M in
Stillwater on Jan. 24, 1998. He became just the seventh coach in
Division I history to win 600 games in 28 years or less, joining
Denny Crum, Bob Knight, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Jerry Tarkanian and
He also earned Big 12 Coach of the Year honors in 1997-98 after
leading the Cowboys back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time
in three seasons. Having previously been honored by the Big Eight,
Southeastern and Southwest Conferences, he is one of only two
coaches nationally to have won conference coach-of-the-year awards
in four different leagues.
Oklahoma State's coach, who rekindled the spirit of Cowboy
basketball when he arrived in 1990, accomplished something that only
one other coach in the basketball history of OSU has done. By
guiding O-State to Seattle and the 1995 Final Four, Sutton joined
Mr. Iba, who had taken Oklahoma A&M to each of its previous Final
Four appearances. Sutton, who played for Mr. Iba at Oklahoma A&M,
was tabbed the 1995 National Coach of the Year by Basketball
When Sutton arrived in Stillwater on April 11, 1990, he inherited
an Oklahoma State program that had made just one appearance in the
NCAA Tournament in 25 years and had only seven winning seasons
during that same period.
It didn't take long for Sutton to dramatically impact basketball
at his alma mater. In his first season, he guided the Cowboys to a
24-8 record, a Big Eight Conference title and a Sweet 16 NCAA
Tournament appearance, where OSU lost in overtime to Temple. The
following season, OSU improved to 28-8, finished second in the Big
Eight and made a return trip to the Sweet 16, where the Cowboys lost
by three to Michigan's much-hyped Fab Five.
A 20-9 record in 1992-93 and a 24-10 mark in 1993-94 both
included second-place finishes in the rugged Big Eight Conference
and trips to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. OSU advanced
to the championship game of the league tournament in 1994 as well.
The 1994-95 season, however, was the high mark for Oklahoma State
basketball in forty years. The Cowboys advanced to the Final Four
for the first time since 1951, and Eddie Sutton had proven once
again that he is one of the best in the history of the game. One
nationally prominent coach put it succinctly: "If you are playing
Oklahoma State and everything else is even and it comes down to
coaching ... you lose."
OSU won at least 17 games in each of Coach Sutton's years at the
helm - no small feat considering that OSU teams had reached that
level in just four of the previous 25 years.
The numbers he put together speak volumes for his coaching
legacy. Only Knight ranked ahead of Sutton on the career victories
list among active coaches at the time of his retirement.
In 37 years of coaching at the Division I level, Sutton won 804
games while losing just 328 for a winning percentage of 71 percent.
He was a four-time national coach of the year and eight-time league
coach of the year.
He took his teams to the NCAA Tournament 26 times in 37 years,
including 25 times in his last 30 seasons as a head coach. OSU's
2004 NCAA Tournament run marked the third Final Four trip in his
He had just one losing season in his 37-year career, and 25 times
his teams won at least 20 games in a year.
Sutton began his career by taking over a Creighton team that had
not produced a winning record in three seasons and led them to five
consecutive winning marks as well as a 23-7 record in 1974 and a
trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Arkansas looked to Sutton for the same kind of revitalization
when the Razorbacks named him their head coach before the 1974-75
season. The Hogs had not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1958, but
under Sutton's guidance, Arkansas posted 17-9 and 19-9 marks his
first two seasons before going on to win at least 21 games and
advance to the NCAA Tournament in each of the next nine seasons.
While at Arkansas, Coach Sutton was a member of the NCAA
Basketball Rules Committee from 1980 until 1985. His 1977-78
Arkansas team had a 32-4 record and advanced to the Final Four of
the NCAA Tournament. Sutton left Arkansas in 1985 for Kentucky,
where he promptly guided the Wildcats to a 32-4 record in 1985-86, a
No. 3 national ranking and a trip to the final eight of the NCAA
At Kentucky, Sutton won two Southeastern Conference championships
and was the National Coach of the Year after the 1985-86 season. In
his first season at Oklahoma State, Sutton guided the Cowboys to 24
victories, tying the Big Eight record for most wins by a league
coach in his first season.
During his tenure at Arkansas and Kentucky, he was a member of
the National Association of Basketball Coaches' Board of Directors
from 1978-88, and was the president the final year. As president of
the NABC, he was one of 24 members that voted on the Basketball Hall
of Fame Honors Committee for induction into the Basketball Hall of
Sutton's coaching career began at Oklahoma State as he served as
the graduate assistant for Mr. Iba during the 1958-59 season. Sutton
then took over at Tulsa Central High School from 1959-66 and had a
118-52 record. He went to Southern Idaho Junior College in 1967 and
compiled a three-year record of 84-14 as the head coach.
As a player at Oklahoma State from 1956-58, Sutton was part of
the 1958 team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. He played guard
and averaged 8.3 points per game and led the Cowboys in free throw
percentage as a junior (.843).
Coach Sutton has been inducted into several Halls of Fame,
including the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (1983), the University of
Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor (1995), the Oklahoma Sports Hall of
Fame (1996), the Oklahoma State University Hall of Honor (1997), the
Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (2009), the Creighton University Hall of
Fame and the College of Southern Idaho Hall of Fame.
He graduated from Oklahoma State with a bachelor's degree in 1958
and earned a master's degree from OSU in 1959.
Sutton was born March 12, 1936, in Bucklin, Kan., and attended
Bucklin High School before attending Oklahoma State.
He is married to the former Patsy Wright and the couple has three
sons: Steve, Sean and Scott; four grandsons and four granddaughters.
Career Record: 1,006-394
NCAA Record: 804-328
OSU Record: 368-151
8th in All-Time Wins
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Oklahoma Hall of Fame
OSU Hall of Honor
2 Final Four appearances
4-Time Coach of the Year
Coach Sutton carefully watches his team during its
run to the 1995 Final Four. Eddie Sutton was the first coach in
college basketball history to guide four schools to the Big Dance.
Eddie Sutton coached his alma mater to two
Final Four appearances. Sutton made three trips to the Final
Four during his career, including a 1978 appearance as coach
of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Before his career as a coach, Eddie Sutton
attended Oklahoma A&M and played for the incomparable Mr.
Iba. Sutton was a member of the 1957 A&M team that upended
Wilt Chamberlin and #2 Kansas in a thrilling 56-54 victory.
He played guard and averaged 8.3 points per
game and led the Cowboys in free throw percentage as a