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Keeping It in the Family

With Pat Knight taking the reins in Lubbock from Bobby Knight, I figured I'd dredge up this post from the old site about nepotism in the coaching ranks. My copious experience in college coaching hires, by the way, is listed here. Sean Sutton won 22 games last year and lost in the first round of the NIT. This year he's 10-11, 1-6 in conference.

Sean Sutton is not the best man for the Oklahoma State coaching job.

Now, I've already laid out my coaching qualifications. And I've never met Sean Sutton. I've never been to an OSU practice, I have no idea how the program is run, and quite frankly, I can't remember the last time I saw one of their games. Hell, I have to remind myself they're not the Sooners.

But I'm pretty confident Sean Sutton not the best man for the job. And the job's not the best fit for Sean Sutton.

Do you know how you hire the best man for a job? You have a search committee. You interview people. You look at their past experience. And then you pick the best guy. There's a reason why most of the jobs in the country are filled this way, and why no one thinks nepotism is an admirable trait.

Now Sean Sutton doesn't have any head coaching experience, in a large part because he's been sitting next to his dad, waiting for this job. I assume he could have taking a head coaching job at a different school in the last couple of years, and I can't necessarily blame him for not seeking one. It's a rare person who gets to work with family, and if you enjoy it, why give that up to go to elsewhere?

But here's the problem now. The fans and administrators are going to look at the younger man now at the bench and see the last name. Sutton. And they'll see 794 wins. They'll see a coaching philosophy bedrocked in 39 years of coaching. They'll see the confidence and experience he's supposed to have lapped up in his father's presence. And they'll be merciless he if he doesn't continue his father's success.

When Eddie Sutton notched his first win at Creighton, Sean was a month or two past his first birthday. This is his first crack at a head coaching gig, and he's doing it before people who expect a 9th straight 20 win season. A ninth NCAA tournament appearance. And then a tenth. And then an eleventh.

To some extent Sean Sutton was going to face this wherever he started. Any advantage his name would bring would be equally weighted by the added expectations. But by taking his father's job, by spending time as a Head Coach Designate, he and the OSU administration are promising continuity. There's an unspoken expecation that now will be just then. That OSU's is getting the second coming of Eddie Sutton. And that's what a first-time head coach is expected to do, from the start. That's what Pat Knight will be looking at in Lubbock in a couple of years. It's not fair to anyone involved. I'm loving Roy Williams' work in Chapel Hill, but don't want to see Scott Williams at the front of the bench in fifteen years.

Sean Sutton is not the best man for the Oklahoma State coaching job. And the job's not the best fit for Sean Sutton.

(Note that last I heard Scott Williams was a bond trader in Charlotte. I don't mean to imply he has any interest in coaching basketball, and was using him as an example.)