PFB - How Eddie Sutton Set the Table for a Historically Dominant Junior College Program

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Feb 17, 2018
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The “EDDIE” doc from Monday night was two hours of TV I couldn’t look away from.

There were so many awesome stories within the grand story that could’ve justified their own two-hour documentaries. One of those stories within the story revolved around the College of Southern Idaho.

Sutton was Southern Idaho’s first basketball coach, and he apparently interviewed in Twin Falls before the university even had a gym. But Sutton left Tulsa Central High School, where he was 118-52 in seven seasons, uprooted his family and traveled to the Gem State.

Sutton spent three seasons there, the first three seasons in program history, and went a combined 84-14. Insanity!

What’s more insane is that it didn’t stop there. The program is now 1,521-318. That’s an 82.7 percent win percentage.

The Golden Eagles have won three NJCAA National Championships and finished second on four other occasions. All of this success came after they took an Oklahoma State grad out a high school that was about 1,500 miles away.

It’s a fascinating story that I’ve gone down a rabbit hole about in this morning after, so join me in discovering the College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles.

The College’s Inception


The idea to have a junior college in south central Idaho came to be when a Stanford doctoral student wrote his dissertation titled, “A Junior College Survey of Twin Falls County, Idaho” in 1952.

In 1960 the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce created a committee to find funding for the college, but things really started taking off in 1963.


“In 1963 the Idaho legislature passed the Junior College Act, which provided for the establishment of junior college districts. Twin Falls County voted to form a junior college district in November 1964. The following year Jerome County citizens voted to join the junior college district. Idaho Governor Robert Smylie appointed the first CSI Board of Trustees in the fall of 1964. They held their first meeting in January of 1965 and hired Dr. James L. Taylor as the first president the following month.” [CSI.edu]

The school’s website says that the first classes through the college started in the fall of 1965 and took place at the local high school. It also mentions that ground wasn’t broken for the first campus building until August 1967. Sutton started coaching there in the 1966-67 season, so where the heck were they playing?

The Sutton Era


The first team Sutton coached in Twin Falls was his best, record-wise anyway. The Golden Eagles went 33-4 in their first year of existence and made the National AAU Tournament.

CSI went 24-6 and 27-4 in the two final seasons of the Sutton era before the soon-to-be legendary coach left for Creighton.

Following Success


Another Oklahoma A&M alum followed Sutton as CSI’s next coach: Jerry Hale.

Hale was a three-year starter under Henry Iba. He spent from 1955-58 in Stillwater, and Southern Idaho plucked him from Don Haskins’ staff at Texas Western. Haskins is another Oklahoma A&M alum, of “Glory Road” fame.

Hale’s Golden Eagles won their regional in each of his five seasons at the helm, and Hale finished his stint a combined 160-22. Southern Idaho made it to its first NJCAA Championship game in 1971 (two seasons after Sutton left), where the Golden Eagles fell to Ellsworth College 80-71.

Hale left the school to coach at Oral Roberts. Enter Boyd Grant.

Grant’s Golden Eagles went back to the NJCAA Championship game in his first season, and won it over Mercer County Community College in his second. Grant spent only three seasons in Twin Falls where he accumulated a ridiculous 92-6 record.

Leading into the Present


The Golden Eagles’ most recent NJCAA Championship came in 2011 when Pierre Jackson, who went onto become a second-round NBA Draft pick, led CSI to a 72-64 victory over Midland College.

Southern Idaho went 16-15 this past season, the closest the program has ever been (ever!) to going below .500. But that might have just been a one-off, as in 2018, the Golden Eagles were again in the NJCAA Championship game.

What does all this mean or have to do with an OSU sports blog? I’m not really sure, but I do find it quite interesting that hiring a young coach from a high school in Tulsa has led a program down this dominant path.







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