Huge San Francisco comeback gives Sutton his 800th win
MALIBU, Calif. (AP)—Eddie Sutton got a chance to rewrite the end of his coaching career, and he’s replaced an ugly incident with a magnificent milestone.
Twenty months after retiring from Oklahoma State after a drunken driving arrest, Sutton became just the fifth coach to win 800 games Saturday night as San Francisco came back from a 19-point second-half deficit to beat Pepperdine 85-82.
Danny Cavic made a 3-pointer with 14.9 seconds left to give the Dons the lead and give the coach the coveted win in his fourth attempt.
Sutton joins Bob Knight, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp and Jim Phelan as the only Division I coaches to win 800, and trails only Knight among active coaches.
“I’m pleased that it’s happened,” said Sutton, wanting to talk more about his young team’s rally than his win tally. “I think it’s probably meant more to my three sons, because they’re the ones that pushed me to come out here when I was asked to come.”
The team has lost seven times in the nine games since Sutton took over as coach, but an incredible second-half charge in front of a sparse crowd with no visible TV cameras helped bring some joy to a dismal season.
“They’ve tested my patience at times,” Sutton said. “But I’m happy that we were able to win. I think they’re capable of winning some more games.”
Sutton said that while several coaches would likely join him soon—Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski stands at 794—he thinks 800 wins will become increasingly rare.
“There won’t be too many coaches who coach to my age,” the 71-year-old coach said. “I don’t think there’s going to be too many dinosaurs. It’s different today. It’s harder coaching than it once was.”
Dior Lowhorn had 28 points and eight rebounds and Cavic had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Dons (6-15, 2-4 West Coast Conference).
Lowhorn, who transferred to San Francisco from Texas Tech, has been coached by both Knight and Sutton.
When Lowhorn was asked how the two compare, Sutton broke in and said “I don’t cuss as much. I just want to get that on the record.”
Lowhorn said “I’ve been around throwbacks all my life.”
Sutton’s respone: “What that means is, he can take a good chewing out.”
Christian Hernandez made a pair of free throws with 2.8 seconds to go and Pepperdine’s Tyrone Shelley missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Shelley led the Waves with 16 points, and Malcolm Thomas and Ryan Holmes scored 12 apiece.
Sutton took the San Francisco job, without so much as a campus visit, after Jessie Evans went on an unwanted and largely unexplained leave of absence the day after Christmas.
Sutton won 368 games with Oklahoma State in 16 seasons, and had taken the Cowboys to the Final Four as recently as 2004 before the ugly exit.
During 36 seasons at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State, Sutton won more than 71 percent of his games and reached the Final Four three times.
Victory number one was Creighton 84, Wisconsin Oshkosh 63, in 1969.
Sutton has lost just 322 games, but said they loom larger.
“I remember as many losses as I remember victories,” he said.
He explored several comeback options before agreeing to become caretaker at San Francisco for three months. He has said he has no plans to stay after this season.
Pepperdine led by 19 early in the second half, but San Francisco went on a 21-5 run that featured eight points from Lowhorn to pull within three, 58-55 with 12:14 to play.
The Waves retook a double-digit lead after consecutive steals and layups from Rico Tucker and Mychel Thompson to go up 70-60 with 8:27 to go.
But San Francisco tied it at 77 with 4:05 to play after a 3-pointer from Danny Cavic, a rebound and putback from Manny Quezada and a layup from Lowhorn.
Hernandez then gave the Dons their first lead of the game with a free throw that made it 78-77 with 3:41 to play.
Pepperdine (7-15, 1-5), has had its own coaching issues. Interim head coach Eric Bridgeland is 1-3 since taking over after Vance Walberg resigned on Jan. 17.
Pepperdine led by double digits for the last 10 minutes of a dominant first half.
Tucker followed a 3-pointer with a dunk and steal to put the Waves up 18-4 to open the game.
Thomas put Pepperdine up by 15 with a breakaway layup as the shot clock expired to make it 37-22 with 6:14 until halftime.
Cavic’s 15 first-half points kept Pepperdine reasonably close.
He scored seven straight San Francisco points to pull within 10, 27-17 with 7:47 to play, and made a hard-fought layup after several Don misses at the end of the first half.
“We haven’t had a great season,” Cavic said. “But no matter what we get to be part of his 800.”