Mike Sutton announces retirement as Golden Eagle head coach
Mar 23, 2011
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – After nine seasons at the helm and 149
career victories, Mike Sutton has announced his retirement as head
men’s basketball coach at Tennessee Tech University.
Sutton announced at a press conference Wednesday morning in Eblen
Center that he is stepping down. He will remain at the university
as an Instructor in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Steve Payne, who has worked as Sutton’s associate head coach
all nine years at Tech, was introduced as the new head coach for
the Golden Eagles.
“It has been a wonderful journey,” Sutton said of his
37-year coaching career. “When I started in coaching, I had
no idea what direction I would go. Coaching basketball has allowed
me to meet so many wonderful people, including my wife Karen, and
my best friends in the coaching fraternity along the
Sutton was stricken in 2005 with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a
life-threatening condition that he has worked tirelessly to
overcome. During the past season, Sutton missed two of the
team’s road trips at the advice of his health advisors.
“I was concerned that my health issues might be more
limiting and possibly a distraction to our team’s dynamics.
Lengthy discussions with our children led us to the conclusion that
retirement is the best option for us,” Sutton said.
“We’ve been successful, and I want to make sure that I
do what’s appropriate,” Sutton added. “My top
concern is my players and my staff, and I didn’t want to
start something that I couldn’t finish.”
The retirement is effective April 30, when he will begin his new
position in Interdisciplinary Studies.
"We're extremely excited to have Mike Sutton joining our team in
the School of Interdisciplinary Studies,” said Susan Elkins,
Vice President of Extended Programs and Regional Development and
Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. “He has
worked very closely with us over the past several years.
We've found that he is much more than a basketball coach....
He's a teacher first, and his top priority is student
Currently the second-longest tenured coach in the Ohio Valley
Conference, Sutton came to Tech in 2002 after serving as an
assistant coach at the University of Kentucky. In his first year,
he led Tech to third place in the OVC regular season and the
championship game at the OVC Tournament, finishing the year with a
With only the fourth 20-win mark in the program’s history,
he became the most successful first-year men’s basketball
head coach in the school record book.
In 2004-05, Sutton was named OVC Coach of the Year after his
Golden Eagles captured the OVC regular season championship and
posted an 18-11 overall mark.
Following the team’s 19-12 record in 2005-06 while he
recovered from GBS, Sutton was presented with the Most Courageous
Award by the United State Basketball Writer’s Association. He
was also the recipient of the 2006 Kaia Jergenson Courage Award
from the Nashville Sports Council.
“I’ve learned that having a physical disability
doesn’t prevent someone from doing things,” he said.
“Limitations don’t limit what you can
This past season, Sutton directed Tech to a 20-13 overall record
and a fourth-place finish in the OVC regular season race. The
Golden Eagles reached the championship game of the OVC Tournament,
and went on to the College Insiders Tournament, the fifth
post-season appearance in the team’s history.
“There’s a lot that we can learn from Mike Sutton,
especially about overcoming obstacles,” said TTU Director of
Athletics Mark Wilson. “Mike has been a successful coach
during his tenure at Tennessee Tech. He has embraced our philosophy
of the student-athlete experience relative to academic success,
athletic competition and the development of the total person.
“Mike Sutton has helped to develop young men that we can be
extremely proud of,” Wilson said.
The 149 victories give Sutton the second-most wins by any
men’s basketball coach at Tech and he can claim two of the
program’s five 20-win seasons.
In addition to his on-court success that includes one OVC regular
season championship, Sutton has also seen his teams produce high
The Golden Eagles have twice won the OVC Academic Award in
men’s basketball and every player Sutton’s staff signed
that finished his career at Tennessee Tech except one has earned
his degree. In May, all three of the team’s current seniors
“Our recruiting emphasis all along has been to recruit the
right kind of people,” Sutton said.
During his nine seasons, several Golden Eagles have gone on to
successful careers in professional basketball including overseas in
European leagues. One season, Tech had an OVC-best seven former
Golden Eagles playing in Europe.
Sutton’s list of players includes one OVC Player of the Year
winner, one OVC Newcomer of the Year, 13 all-OVC selections and
three all-Newcomer team picks. This past year, junior Kevin Murphy
became the latest Tech player to receive first-team all-OVC honors
and three Golden Eagles -- Murphy, Zac Swansey and Jud Dillard
– were all named to the OVC All-Tournament team.
“Mike has been an excellent ambassador for athletics and
the university, and has always put the best interest of the program
before himself,” Wilson said.
“We want to thank him for his loyalty and dedicated service
to Golden Eagle basketball. We’re excited that he’s
going to be a part of the university faculty, and that he and Karen
will continue to be a part of our community,” Wilson