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Sutton takes leave to seek treatment

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Sutton facing adversity with typical integrity

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Feb. 15, 2006

A great career may have come to an end Wednesday as Eddie Sutton announced he is taking leave of his position as head coach at Oklahoma State and will enter a treatment facility for his alcohol problem.

Sutton is truly one of the finest teachers and winners ever to grace the sidelines. Eddie and I go back a long way, as we shared the podium at clinics back in the early '70s when I was coaching the University of Detroit and he was at Creighton. I was always amazed with his ability to get his people to understand and play as a team defensively.

Defense, like offense, has a certain rhythm to it, and all five players must buy into the philosophy and execute as a unit to be efficient. Sutton has always been able to get his teams -- whether at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky or Oklahoma State -- to understand his concepts. That, my friends, is coaching! The ability to get the most out of your people and have them compete at the highest level.

Sutton's teams also had a great understanding of shot selection, which is all related to the discipline he learned under the late, great Hall of Famer Henry Iba. Yes, Sutton's resurrection of the Oklahoma State program has been a thing of beauty.

Sutton has been a Frank Lloyd Wright, a builder of programs, from the College of Southern Idaho in the juco ranks, to his final stop at Oklahoma State.

Over the last year, having seen coach Sutton on the sideline in my travels, you could almost feel the pain he was suffering from his various physical problems, including his back. It has been widely reported that he has utilized painkillers to help with his pain.

Let's respect his feelings and have compassion for Sutton, as he has been man enough to address this situation immediately. It has been documented that Eddie dealt with an alcohol problem several years ago and went through rehab at the Betty Ford Center. Speculation will run rampant that his latest accident was because of alcohol. All I know is that he has been man enough to address his dilemma, and he has asked that we pray for his speedy recovery.

He has always asked his coaches and players to be accountable for their actions, and he is living by that doctrine, as he courageously stated that he has a problem that he must address -- and all he basically wants to do is make a healthy recovery.

I wish him all the best. The team is in the capable hands of Sean Sutton, who is an extension of his dad and has been well-prepared to take over the program.

I close by saying to my friend, Eddie, my family's prayers are with you and please get well. Thanks for all of the magical moments that you have allowed us to enjoy in the game we love, college basketball.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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