A "Texas" View On Eddie Sutton
Longhorn- Razorback Rivalry Was A Dandy
Abe Lemons and Ray Harper may not be familiar names to avid Wildcat supporters, but to new University of Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton their names probably ring a Texan bell.
Lemons coached the Texas Longhorns in the '70's and early 80's, while Harper, a product out of Bremen High School in Kentucky, was a starting guard for Lemons in '81 and '82. And in "cowboys and indians" tradition, the rivalry between Texas and Arkansas was somethin' fierce.
"It was definitely one of the bigger rivalries," said Harper, who transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan after his sophomore season and helped guide KWC to two straight Division II Final Four appearances. "It's probably like Kentucky against Tennessee. It's a big game."
A freshman guard on the '81 Longhorns, Harper, and his teammates ended Arkansas' 2l-straight winning streak at Barnhill Arena with a 62-60 win. Before that, the last team to be a Sutton squad in the renovated 9,000 seat Razorback den was Baylor in 1979. In his 11 years as head mentor of the Hogs, Sutton's teams recorded a 121-8 slate at Barnhill Arena.
Pep rallies, your basic rumors floating between each rival school, capacity crowds and close ballgames existed in the matchup between Sutton's and Lemons' teams.
"The rivalry was between people not between schools," saidLemons, who noted that he used to agitate a little fire into the game himself.
Cats' Pause Columnist
"The pressure was really on him more than me because they had the best teams. Though Arkansas won more. Texas is not a basketball school."
Lemons, who is now the coach at Oklahoma City (recently dropped from Division I to an NAIA institution), mentioned that even the Longhorn fans would sell out their 16,200 seat arena when the two teams were scheduled to meet during that era.
Ever since Lemons left the Austin campus after the '82 season the tradition has died down, at least in regard to Texas.
These days getting a ticket for the Texas-Arkansas game is almost an impossible task in Fayetteville, but in Austin the fanfare is weak. Only 4,710 showed up last season to watch the encounter -- a far cry from shootouts in the past between the Longhorns and Hogs.
But like 99.9 percent of most things in life, changes are expected.
As mentioned before, Lemons is at Oklahoma City, and Sutton is now the coach of the Wildcats. However, Lemons was somewhat shocked that Sutton packed his bags and moved to the Bluegrass state.
"It surprised me," said the colorful Lemons. "I don't know what happened to him. I thought he had found a home."
Lemons, who guided his team to an NIT championship in 1979, noted that as far as pressure is concerned, Kentucky is the toughest job in the United States for any coach.
During the Adolph Rupp years, Lemons was present at a Kentucky banquet following a season where the Wildcats had lost seven games. Before the dinner, Rupp approached Lemon and said, "Abe you need to say something nice about me. They want to fire me."
As for UK, both Lemons and Harper agreed that Kenny Walker and crew got a man who can probably handle the situation.
Said Lemons, "He knows his business. I think the University of Kentucky got a good coach. "If he's not too late in recruiting he may be alright next season." _ '
"He didn \ catch a lot of flack at Arkansas. At Kentucky you get a lot of flack. He needs to go see some John Wayne films and
Sutton Will Be Missed In Ozark Country
Man To Man Tough According To Harper
According to Harper, Sutton's man-to-man defense is "the best I've ever played against. Their (Razorbacks') guards are very disciplined."
Dissolving tough defenses was Harper's speciality in 1981. The six-footer led the Southwestern Conference in assists, dishing out more than five per game.
Harper also pointed out that Kentucky's new coach should greatly benefit one particular Wildcat.
"James Blackmon will shine under Coach Sutton," said Harper. He has the quickness like Darrell Walker (former Arkansas All-American).
"He's definitely a good coach. His record speaks for itself. Coach Sutton and Coach (Joe) Hall have some of the same ideas of coaching basketball.
"UK is probably the class program of college basketball. I think any coach would love to have that job."
The Kentucky coaching position is more than a job; it's an adventure.
Besides drawing the X's and O's for the 'Cats, he must also: win a national championship every season, please all the Big Blue fans by listening to their expertise coaching advice, and handle the Commonwealth's easy-going media.
Okay, okay. . .a championship every other year.
Lemons warned that Sutton had better be prepared for the unpredictable call-in shows and a certain columnist by the name of Billy Reed. Lemons noted that even people in Texas had heard of the problems between Hall and Reed.
"He may not be tough enough for that,'' inquired Lemons about Kentucky fans and media. "He didn't catch a lot of flack at Arkansas. At Kentucky you get a lot of flack. He needs to go see some John Wayne films and toughen up.
"I hope he makes it. I hate to see any coach have a hard time.But he'll be well-compensated for it.