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Sean Sutton Resigns from OSU; I Naturally Think of Duke

Sean Sutton has resigned under pressure at Oklahoma State after two years and a 39-29 record. The announcement comes complete with some of the dickish comments I've ever heard from an athletic director:

Athletic director Mike Holder met with Sutton on Monday, two weeks after the Cowboys finished their season. Holder said Sutton knew the expectations for a program that reached the Final Four twice with Sutton on his father's staff.

"I think Sean was probably a victim of those expectations," Holder said. "He was put in a tough situation. It's hard enough to follow a legend. But when that legend is your father, that's probably tough to the third power. Perhaps, in a different set of circumstances, he would have enjoyed more success.

"Life is not fair. Athletics is not fair," he said. "At the end of the day, I feel like it's the right decision."

This is a school that prior to father Eddie Sutton's arrival had three postseason appearances since joining the Big Eight conference.

I bring this up becuase one of my first posts, reprinted here was about how unfair this situation was to both Sutton and OSU. I think Sutton will land on his feet - he's a good coach who turned around a horrible season this year to upset Kansas, so he's obviously got the chops for this job. I also don't expect much success from Oklahoma State in the future, considering people are already lining up to reject the position.

Sutton got me thinking about OSU's crosstown rival Oklahoma though, who just finished their second season under Jeff Capel. There are obvious similarities between the two coaches - both are the son of coaches, and both played guard for pretty impressive schools. Sutton was at Kentucky and OSU from 1988 to 1992, and Capel at Duke from 1993 to 1997. It wasn't the contrast between Capel and Sutton that jumped out at me though. It's the difference between Capel and his fellow Duke alums on the bench in Cameron.

I was surprised when I first heard Capel was taking the OU job, primarily because he's about my age, and I'm not really ready for my contemporaries to be leading basketball teams. And true, when he started is head coaching career at VCU, he was the youngest coach in D-1 ball. But as soon as I realized Capel's age, I thought of Johnny Dawkins.

Dawkins has twelve years on Capel. He was winding down a nine year pro career when Capel first hit campus, and joined the coaching staff a year after the guard graduated. And yet Dawkins' name never seems to come up in coaching searches. Chris Collins (joined Duke in 2000) doesn't really seem to either, except for the Illinois State job last year. (Collins father, Doug Collins, is the best basketball player to come out of ISU.) I assume Dawkins hasn't tried for many jobs, since being the associate head coach under Krzyzewski is probably good enough to get folks to check out your resume, and it's quote possible he's comfortable in a Bill Guthridge or Joe Holladay role, but I don't think so. And with Krzyzewski's limited coaching disciples (Amaker and Snyder are right out, leaving only Mike Brey and perhaps Bob Bender as successful major coaches) there's a good chance he'll be tappedfor the head chair when Krzyzewski retires.

And if he hasn't struck out on his before then, his tenure will be a disaster.

I can understand the desire to stay at Duke. Hell, Roy Williams had to be given a good swift kick to convince him to consider the Kansas job all those years ago. But I can't see him having nearly the success he would be experiencing now if he'd just stuck around waiting for a vacancy in Chapel Hill. No matter how great the guy you're learning under is, there's no substitute for running your own program. Not being an associate coach, not being a designated successor, not running the JV squad. It's being a head coach.

Which is why Capel, who entered coaching at the same time as Chris Collins, has had much more success. He spent a year under his father at Old Dominion, a year as an assistant at VCU, then four seasons as a head coach there, and now two at Oklahoma. Capel's played or coached under three different head coaches - Collins, only one.

Which brings up another question. What's the benefit of hiring assistant coaches who all played under you? It's seems to greatly limit the perspective your assistants can provide, as after all, they learned everything from you to begin with. Not to mention the chaos it can cause in bizarre situations like what's currently happening at Arizona.

Dean Smith hired a fair number of former players (Larry Brown, Phil Ford, and Pat Sullivan come to mind) but Ford aside, most of their tenures were brief, and far more former players found coaching jobs outside of Chapel Hill on his recommendation than spent time on his bench. Williams has begun to fill his coaching ranks with folks who played under him at Kansas, so maybe the UNC bench is going the way of their neighbors down the road, but wouldn't a larger talent pool and some different opinions and philosophies make for a healthire basketball department in Durham?