Bill Self would love to be in the audience the day Oklahoma State coaching legend Eddie Sutton is inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
"Coach has meant so much to so many, and it was indeed an honor to be part of his staff during the early 1990s. Coach Sutton is a Hall of Fame coach with Hall of Fame credentials," Self, Kansas University's third-year coach said of his mentor, who on Friday announced his retirement at the age of 70.
Sutton, Self's boss in Stillwater, Okla., from 1990-93, leaves the game with a 36-year record of 798-315, making him the fifth winningest coach of all time behind Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876), Bob Knight (869) and Jim Phelan (830). He went 368-151 at Oklahoma State the past 16 years.
"It's a remarkable accomplishment by a great coach who has done an unbelievable amount of good at his alma mater," Self said. "I do not know there's been anybody ever who will mean as much to a university as he means to that one. I'm sure others are comparable or equals but not more.
"He is one of a few coaches who have been able to adjust his style to rule changes and to the changes of the athletes and have equal success without compromising his fundamental beliefs - play great defense and do not beat yourself. He is one of the very very few coaches out there who has withstood the test of time and achieved success at the highest level over four decades."
Self approached Friday as a day to honor Sutton, not express any regret over the fact a drunken driving accident may have led to a premature end to the coach's career and pursuit of 800 victories.
"I want to congratulate coach Sutton on his retirement," Self said, "and the major contributions he's made to the college game over the last four decades. He has been great for the game, and I know that coach (Tim) Jankovich and I were honored to be a part of his staff."
Jankovich, who has worked for Self the past three seasons at KU, worked for Sutton during the 1992-93 season.
"I would like to personally thank coach for helping jump-start my career," Self added of Sutton. "Without him, I would not have had the opportunities I have had laid out before me."
Self said Sutton "influenced me in all areas. Game management and preparation ... we still do drills identical to what we did at Oklahoma State. I've stolen from coach (Larry) Brown (former KU coach), coach (Leonard) Hamilton (former OSU coach) and coach Sutton. He's impacted me a lot. He stood for class. He's been a positive influence for me."
Of Sutton, Texas coach Rick Barnes said: "Coach will be missed by all of us who have gotten to know him over the years. I've definitely learned from having the opportunity to coach against him. I personally respected the way he has always treated me while I've been at Texas and going back to my days as an assistant coach at Alabama. He's been around basketball for a long time and has meant a lot to the game."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who coached against Sutton during his KU days, told the Daily Oklahoman: "He's one of the giants, and to me it's amazing he's not already in the Basketball Hall of Fame. High school, junior college, major college. He's won at every place he's been - 1,000 games, or something crazy like that. I love him to death. If you're on the other bench, you learn something from his team."