Column: At long last, Eddie Sutton is a Hall of Famer

OSU vs. KU GM: Eddie Sutton

He's finally in.

After almost a decade-long movement to condemn the confidential selectors for the annual Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction process, Oklahoma State fans, Kentucky fans, Arkansas fans, Creighton fans and basketball fans everywhere can finally rejoice.

It took a worldwide pandemic and a national societal shutdown for the 24 selectors to finally induct legendary men's basketball coach Eddie Sutton into the basketball Hall of Fame, where he certainly belongs to be recognized.

It was an outrageous charade for years to keep Sutton out of the Hall of Fame. We all know that.

But that quarrel is in the past.

I’ve always been a believer in the policy of “better late than never,” especially in a situation where a wrong is made right.

When Sutton is formally inducted into the Hall with the rest of the 2020 class including the late Kobe Bryant and NBA legend Tim Duncan at the induction ceremony in August, they'll bring up his tremendous numbers, which alone were impressive enough for induction.

With 806 wins, Sutton is one of 10 coaches with at least 800 wins in Division-I men's college basketball history, and he was the only retiree who hadn't yet been inducted.

Sutton played for legendary basketball coach Henry Iba, his mentor, at Oklahoma State and then began his coaching career as an assistant on Iba's staff. He later returned to Stillwater to coach the Cowboys from 1990 to 2006 and became the first coach to take four different schools to the NCAA tournament. He coached three Final Four teams, one at Arkansas and two at OSU, and with Sutton at the helm, OSU reached the postseason 14 times in his 17 years in Stillwater.

But as we've learned for years, while he was a tremendous ball coach with an admirable winning-percentage, the second-winningest in OSU history even, those who played and coached under Sutton have echoed for years that his biggest gift was his ability to coach those around him into becoming better human beings off the court and prepare them for life. The impact he had on the lives of those around him was monumental.

Randy Rutherford, who played on Sutton's 1995 Final Four team, said Sutton, " ... has taught us a lot about life and about accepting responsibility for our actions."

"He gave me a perspective on a baseline boundary of who I am," Rutherford said. "He taught me how to be responsible, accountable, dedicated, and how to be a man of your word. He taught me how to be a man."

Other former players of Sutton showcased their excitement after Tulsa World's Bill Haisten reported that Sutton had finally been inducted, such as Ivan McFarlin, who played for Sutton at OSU from 2001-05

"He made me understand that it's not all about basketball, that it's about life," McFarlin said.

NBA Champion and former Cowboy hooper Tony Allen credited Sutton for guiding him through his path to the league.

"He kept me on track and just kept my mind focused on the long-haul, and I think that goes unnoticed," Allen said. "(Sutton is) more like a father figure a little bit to say, the discipline factor that he instilled into his program, it carried over for guys like myself."

Others such as Doug Gottlieb, another former Cowboy who played for Sutton, former NFL coach Barry Switzer and ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale voiced their excitement on Twitter.

Sutton, now 84 and frail, is undeniably in the fourth quarter of his life. He travels in a wheelchair and struggles to speak, per Chris Hunt, a filmmaker who recently completed a documentary, "Eddie: The Costs of Greatness," about Sutton and his life.

It's unbelievable Sutton is still alive after the almost decade-long collusion to keep him out of the Hall of Fame, and many people started to believe the committee would wait until after Sutton passed away to finally induct him.

But he's still here. He's still with us. He's still with his family, who is reportedly "overjoyed" with the news after waiting years for Saturday's announcement to rightfully become a reality.

It was a long road to get here, but all is right in the OSU basketball world.

Sutton's contributions to the game will now forever be immortalized in Springfield, Massachusetts.

At long last, Eddie Sutton is finally a Hall of Famer.

It's about damn time.

sports.ed@ocolly.com