February 6, 2011

Players, coaches and fans have all helped Tech reach 1,000 victories

Tech and Governors both in the hunt for 2011 OVC title

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For Tennessee Tech basketball coach Mike Sutton, reaching a benchmark like 1,000 victories is simply a reflection on the people who have been a part of the program.

The Golden Eagles recently joined the impressive list of schools nationally who have achieved 1,000 all-time wins in men’s college basketball.  

“The benchmark of 1,000 is a part of basketball,” Sutton said. “Players are recognized for scoring 1,000 points and programs are recognized for reaching 1,000 wins. It’s an important number, and numbers are a lot of how we measure success. Numbers help you set goals and challenges, and 1,000 is a special number.

“What’s significant about 1,000 wins are the people involved in getting there, whether it’s the players, the coaches or the fans. We should acknowledge those people, and this benchmark should be a source of pride for all of them,” Sutton said.

On Monday, just prior to tipoff in Eblen Center when Sutton’s Golden Eagles will host rival Austin Peay, the University will hold a brief ceremony to recognize Tech’s 1,000 victories.

Former basketball coaches Raymond “Bull” Brown, Kenny Sidwell, Connie Inman and Frank Harrell will pass a basketball – decorated with the number 1,000 – from coach to coach to signify the passing of the years. Harrell will give the ball to Sutton, who will cap off the recognition by handing the commemorative ball to University President Bob Bell.

Tech did a similar ceremony for the men’s basketball team’s 900th win a few years ago, and two years back held a ball-passing event for the women’s basketball team’s 800th all-time win.

The ceremony Monday will take place at 7 p.m., followed by tipoff of the crucial OVC game. 

How did Tech get to its milestone 1,000th win? It was a long process that began in 1924 when coach Putty Overall’s Golden Eagles claimed their first-ever victory, a 48-16 decision over Monterey.

Tech claimed its 100th win in 1940, also under coach Overall, a 52-39 decision over Union College, and the countdown clock toward 1,000 had begun.

Win No. 200 came with a 48-44 victory for coach Bull Brown’s squad over Chattanooga in 1950, and eight years later, coach Johnny Oldham’s Golden Eagles topped Morehead State, 78-70, for win No. 300.

The pace picked up as the schedules expanded. On January 29, 1966, coach Kenny Sidwell’s team downed Eastern Kentucky, 103-93, for win No. 400.

Tech hit the halfway point on its climb to 1,000, with a 71-69 victory over Austin Peay on January 20, 1975, under coach Connie Inman.

Tom Deaton was head coach on February 11, 1984, when Tech got No. 600 with a 75-70 win over Austin Peay. Win No. 700 came for coach Frank Harrell on Dec. 3, 1991, when Tech beat Bethel College, 116-93, and victory No. 800 came nine years later. It was Jan. 22, 2000, when Jeff Lebo’s squad bounced Austin Peay, 75-64.

Sutton was head coach for win No. 900, when Tech defeated Jacksonville State, 71-56, on February 17, 2005.

The Golden Eagles opened 2011 with their 999th win, stopping Bluefield College in the Eblen Center. Two weeks later, the milestone was reached when Tech outlasted UT Martin – in triple overtime – on Jan. 13, 2011.

The Golden Eagles enter Monday’s game against Austin Peay with 1,004 all-time victories.

“Time is a factor in getting that many wins, and it makes you reflect on all the people involved in getting there,” Sutton said.

“Several people who were key in reaching 1,000 wins have come back for our Alumni Nights through the years, guys who have played an integral part in reaching the benchmark.

“The most important part is the players. They’re the ones who are responsible for getting to 1,000 wins. I’ve been involved in number 900, and now in number 1,000, and it makes me both humble and appreciative of all the work these guys have done through the years.”

Sutton also gave a shout out to the folks in the stands, the sixth man throughout the years.

“The other part is the fans. A lot of people have been here for this team over the years, and we appreciate all that support,” he said.

While he acknowledges that the fans and coaches have played a role, Sutton keeps returning to the players who raced up and down the wooden floor of Memorial Gym and, for the past 30-plus years, Eblen Center.

“Those guys through the years paved the way for this team to reach the benchmark. I am especially grateful for the local guys, players such as Bobby McWilliams and Greg Bibb, who played here and still live in this area. They were big part of that tradition and history, and it’s been great to have the opportunity to meet and talk with them. They are our history,” he said.

Sutton said that Tennessee Tech has had challenges to overcome in achieving 1,000 wins.

“This program has gone through typical growing pains, along with the expansion of college athletics in general through the years,” he said.

“One thing to take pride in is the fact that this program has been consistent with its mission in focusing on the core values of being student-athletes,” Sutton said. “These young men came to Tennessee Tech for the value of receiving an education. It’s a real tribute to their dedication and commitment that they’ve been able to generate 1,000 wins.”