Eddie Sutton still can’t get 800th win as San Francisco loses 66-48 to Santa Clara
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Eddie Sutton is enjoying the search for his 800th victory, even if his new team sometimes looks totally lost.
San Francisco failed in a third attempt to get its interim coach his milestone win, with John Bryant scoring 22 points in Santa Clara’s 66-48 victory Monday night.
Judging by the frustration in Sutton’s face and voice during the final 30 minutes on the bench, this loss might be the most galling of his seven defeats in eight games at San Francisco. Sutton, the venerated 71-year-old coach who led three teams to the Final Four, took over the beleaguered program last month in hopes of getting the final two victories to push him to 800, a mark reached by only four Division I coaches.
“It’s hard on players to lose, but it’s also hard on coaches that aren’t accustomed to losing,” Sutton said after his 322nd career defeat. “But you can’t win if you’re not playing defense any better than we’re playing right now.”
Still, it’ll take more than a few losses to discourage Sutton, who seems quite happy with his late-career move even while he adds to the wrong side of his career record.
Sutton got win No. 799 over Portland on Jan. 19, and he thought the Dons could compete with Santa Clara, a struggling Bay Area rival, after playing fairly well in tough losses to West Coast Conference powers Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in their last two games.
Instead, the Dons (5-15, 1-4) fell behind by 21 points early in the second half of their 10th loss in 11 games overall. Dior Lowhorn scored 22 points, but Sutton spent most of the night in a state of agitation, repeatedly popping from his seat to point out his players’ mistakes as Santa Clara rolled to an easy win.
“The most disappointing thing for me is that our defense has had slippage from where we were last week,” Sutton said. “I thought we had improved from that.”
Calvin Johnson scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half of the third victory in four games for the Broncos (11-9, 3-2). San Francisco struggled to defend the 6-foot-10 Bryant, who also had 12 rebounds, while Johnson and Brody Angley hurt the Dons from outside as Santa Clara took a 25-point lead. Angley finished with 11 points and 10 assists to earn praise from Sutton, who doesn’t really have a point guard on his own team.
“The defensive end is certainly something that’s important to Coach Sutton, and I thought we did a good job there tonight,” said Kerry Keating, Santa Clara’s rookie coach. “Coach Sutton has been coaching for as long as I’ve been alive, so anybody that’s been lasting in this business for more than three decades deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I’m really happy for the chance to coach against him. I just try to tell the kids to appreciate this opportunity.”
Sutton is still waiting to join Bob Knight, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp and Jim Phelan as the only Division I coaches with 800 victories. Sutton is the sport’s second-winningest active coach, though Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski could catch him by the end of the season.
During 36 seasons at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State, Sutton won more than 71 percent of his games and reached the Final Four as recently as 2004 with the Cowboys. He left Oklahoma State two years ago after being arrested on drunken-driving charges, but considered several comeback options before agreeing to become caretaker at San Francisco for three months.
“No one ever mentions it except when we get around media,” Sutton said of his chase for 800. “I told them it will happen one of these days, but until we start playing better, it may never happen again.”
Sutton took charge after Jessie Evans went on an unwanted leave of absence the day after Christmas. Sutton instituted two-a-day practices after the club returned from two road losses in Utah during the holiday break, but the Dons’ improvements haven’t yet translated to multiple victories.
San Francisco’s small but vocal home crowds at War Memorial Gym won’t see Sutton and his team again until Feb. 11. San Francisco’s next three games are on the road at Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary’s.