OGDEN Eddie Sutton's renewed quest for 800 wins began at Weber State on Friday night, but he didn't make any progress in reaching his landmark goal.
Weber State defeated San Francisco, Sutton's new team, 62-54, at the Dee Events Center in front of 2,518 fans. It was Sutton's first game coaching the Dons after being named the team's interim coach on Wednesday.
"I was excited and I really enjoyed it," Sutton said. "I didn't enjoy the way the team was playing. I told them I'm not accustomed to losing games and getting behind that far."
The Wildcats built a 15-point lead six minutes into the second half before holding off an impressive rally by the Dons. It was a bounce-back win for the Wildcats, who were drubbed by 30 points by New Mexico on Sunday afternoon.
The presence of Sutton, however, overshadowed Weber State's return to the win column.
Sutton took over the San Francisco men's basketball program on Wednesday when the school announced that former coach Jessie Evans was "taking a leave of absence." Sutton met his players in Utah on Thursday and has yet to visit San Francisco's campus. He'll remain in Utah over the weekend, as the Dons play Utah Valley State on Monday.
Sutton compiled 798 Division I victories while coaching at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State. He last coached at Oklahoma State during the 2006 season. He took a medical leave and eventually resigned after he was involved in an automobile accident in which he was cited for driving under the influence.
Sutton is eighth all-time in Division I coaching victories and second among active coaches, trailing only Texas Tech's Bobby Knight. He could have moved within one victory of 800 wins on Friday, but he wasn't completely surprised that he didn't against the Wildcats.
"You can't worry about that," Sutton said. "It will come. I just want the team to get better."
Weber State coach Randy Rahe said the Dons will surely improve under the legendary coach, and that he's glad his Wildcats played them early in Sutton's tenure, which will last through the end of the season.
"You'll see a different team," Rahe said. "We were fortunate that he hasn't had a chance to coach them yet."
Rahe said the experience of coaching against Sutton was "humbling."
"He's a legend," Rahe said. "He's forgotten more basketball than I'll ever know. He's earned whatever he wants to do. If he wants to come back in January and coach a team, he's earned it. ... He's one of the best that's ever coached."
Rahe shook up his lineup to help his team bounce back from its loss to the Lobos. Dezmon Harris, Juan Pablo Silveira and Steve Panos were replaced in the starting lineup by Kellen McCoy, Daviin Davis and Danny Johnson. If the move was a ploy to get his starters' attention, it worked.
Panos led the Wildcats with 13 points and four rebounds. He was aggressive on both ends of the floor while being encouraged by former fellow Highland High students Bo McNally and Elliot Grow, who wildly cheered his every move from the front row.
"It (not being in the starting lineup) gave me a little spark," Panos said. "It got me kind of fired up. I wanted to come out and prove something."Harris made the game's key play. After the Wildcats had their 15-point lead trimmed to three, Harris put the game away when he converted a three-point play with 47 seconds remaining. Harris' layup and free throw gave Weber State a 56-50 lead.
E-mail: [email protected]