College Sports

Hoop legends make way into Hall of Fame

The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony was a haven Sunday night for successful college basketball coaches with Kansas ties.

Among the 14 inductees were Eddie Sutton, a Bucklin native who won 804 games with five schools, and Ted Owens, who led Kansas to eight NCAA tournaments between 1964-83.

Also in attendance was former Kansas State coach and Silver Lake native Lon Kruger. He was there in support of his former player, Steve Henson, now an assistant under Kruger at UNLV. Kruger was inducted into the KSHOF in 1999.

The lives and careers of the coaches intertwined — definitely not for the first time — as Henson, Owens and Sutton mentioned at least one of the others in their induction speeches.

Henson was up first, and he described how he was first recruited by Kruger and KSU after his sophomore season at McPherson High.

"One of the most important decisions a person can make is where to go to college," Henson said in his speech. "For me (attending KSU) was the best decision I ever made. Coach Kruger came in in the spring of my sophomore year and a relationship quickly developed. I never thought 23 years later we would still be (coaching) together."

Owens poked fun at Kruger and Sutton. He described a game he coached against Kruger and KSU in 1973, when Kruger got the better end of a foul call on a loose ball.

The 80-year-old Owens, who prefaced his speech by saying, "I still have my wits about me; I remember practically all of it," wondered if Kruger was ready to finally claim he was the one who committed the foul.

"Tonight it's a cleansing process, if you want to publicly admit that," Owens said.

Sutton was the target of the next light-hearted moment Owens produced. Seven years Sutton's senior, Owens joked that he listened on the radio when Sutton played basketball at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) when Owens was a kid.

Owens, born in Hollis, Okla., was recently inducted to that state's sports Hall of Fame.

The marquee member of the Kansas Hall's 24th class was Sutton, who led Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State to the NCAA Tournament during his 39-year coaching career.

Joined by his sons Scott, currently the Oral Roberts coach, and former Oklahoma State coach Sean, Eddie Sutton discussed being a member of several Halls of Fame.

"This one is more important to me," Sutton said. "It's my state. It's where I was born, it's where I was raised."

Sutton lived in Winfield, Leavenworth, Wichita and Dodge City before settling in Bucklin, where he was a member of an 18-person graduating class. He brought five classmates with him to Sunday's ceremony.

"With a class that size, you're in the plays, you're in the student government, you're in the debate squad," Sutton said. "So you have to learn to do a little bit of everything."

Bender starts scholarship _ Induction ceremony emcee Gary Bender, himself a 2008 inductee, has contributed $25,000 to the Wichita State University Foundation to establish a broadcasting scholarship.

Bender, who formerly called Final Four games for CBS, is a 1962 University of Wichita graduate who is now the voice of the Phoenix Suns.

"It's a way for me to give back to the university, a thank you to WSU for taking a kid from a small western Kansas town into its fold and launching my career," Bender said.