Coach connection: How a historic 1958 basketball game caused a lifelong friendship between Barry Switzer and Eddie Sutton
In March 1958, University of Arkansas sophomore Barry Switzer took a road trip that he’ll never forget.
This was long before the National Championships, Super Bowl and hall of fame inductions. Switzer was simply a college student trying to watch a basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
But he didn’t realize how crucial this trip would be to his friendship with fellow Oklahoma-based coach Eddie Sutton, who was playing for Henry Iba’s Oklahoma State team in the tournament at the time.
“It was kind of neat to watch Eddie (Sutton) bring the ball down against Kansas State in 1958,” Switzer told the O’Colly. “But both of us got a good laugh out of this story. After this game was over and they lost to Kansas State… both Eddie and I got to see my team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, with three minutes to go in the game have 54 points and Oscar Robertson had 56! For Cincinnati as a sophomore, first year as a player for them.
“We both got to marvel at that. That was an NCAA record at the time.”
Watching this beatdown from Robertson together was the foundation of a great relationship between Sutton and Switzer. These former students eventually found coaching success in their respective sports, but stayed connected because of this one afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.
“We both laughed and talked about that,” Switzer said. “But that’s how I’ve always known him… We go way back. Eddie and I have been together many times.”
But both of their coaching successes soon turned into legendary status. Switzer became a three-time national champion at the University of Oklahoma and Sutton went to the Final Four three different times.
Throughout their hall of fame careers, however, the two would always reconnect whenever one of them was in Stillwater or Norman.
“For 45 years I was the head coach of Oklahoma special olympics, we always held it in Stillwater and I would always go up early to go by Eddie’s office to see him,” Switzer said. “When I would come up for the games, that was when he was coaching (at OSU).”
Both coaches retired in the late 1990s and 2000s, but still had tremendous respect for one another in their post-coaching careers.
“He’ll go down as one of the great collegiate basketball coaches of all time,” Switzer said. “What he accomplished is phenomenal and he’ll certainly rank as one of our greatest coaches. I’m sure Eddie would be proud of that, but what is lost is that they should have recognized it sooner than they did and that’s upsetting to me. Politics, politics. (The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame committee) that voted on whether he got in or not, they were the guys who sat in the back of the 8th grade P.E. class on the last row and didn’t dress out.”