What has the major college basketball coaching profession become? Earlier this year we saw Mark Gottfried get unjustly dismissed as the head coach at North Carolina State with five games remaining in the season. However, the athletic director allowed him to finish out the season coach at his request. Now we have the debacle that happen at Oral Roberts University on Monday to a coach that had been there 18 years and executing a directive given to him by the school’s president.
There are so many things wrong with this firing it’s hard to wrap my mind around. Coach Scott Sutton is the winningest coach in the program’s history. He had to hear about his firing from others and was never brought in to discuss the situation prior to his release. It appeared on social media before he knew of the dismissal. It came two days before national signing day and several days after the team had played their last game on 22 February 2017. My only question is, why now?
On that same note, who in their right mind, as a coach, would want to take a position in this program? The firing didn’t come at the hands of the athletic director. It came from the school’s president. In June of 2013 this president, not the athletic director, presented new guidelines for recruiting to the basketball program.
Instead of recruiting any athlete who was a solid person and academically acceptable while outfitted with the ability to contend for Summit League championships, Scott Sutton did as he was told, sources say. Instead of signing athletes and hoping they might be inspired by the ORU culture, Sutton narrowed his focus to prospects who would testify that they already were Christian. (Tulsa World Sports Extra)
After this directive the team went 6-10 in 2015-16 and 4-12 in 2016-17 Summit League. Prior to that Coach Sutton’s record were 130-40 in Summit League play from 2001-02 through 21011-12. In a two year span they lost more conference games than they did in the previous eleven years. Why was there a new directive in the recruiting process given? They didn’t have players in trouble on campus, no academic fraud, illegal recruiting, or any other egregious types of issues happening in the program.
Although this has been a tough pill to swallow for Coach Sutton, he has handled this dismissal with nothing but class. Coach Sutton will land on his feet somewhere that he will appreciate him for the person and coach he is and will continue to be.
By Dr. Bret Simmermacher
Dr. Simmermacher is the Chair of Sports Coaching at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org