|Mr. Henry Iba - Head Coach 1935-1970|
|Written by the late Bill Connors,
Tulsa World Sports Editor (Jan. 16, 1993)
This is 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 landscape.
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 finest gentleman."
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 presence.
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 their respects.
"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.
|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 coaches list.
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 coaching.
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 Tournament.
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 John Wooden.
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 Times magazine.
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 career.
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 Tournament.
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 Fame.
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.