Mike Sutton Still Standing strong

    • Anonymous
      November 21, 2007 at 10:12 am

      Standing strong
      Kevin Schnepf, The Forum
      Published Monday, November 19, 2007

      Tonight at the Eblen Center in Cookeville, Tenn., where North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team will play Tennessee Tech, Mike Sutton will take a wheelchair down a ramp to the playing floor.

      He will stop, get up and use his walker to find his way to the bench.

      Sutton is Tennessee Tech’s 51-year-old head coach, who for the last two years has been recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome – a rare inflammatory disorder that attacked Sutton’s immune system and nearly killed him.

      “It’s improving,” Sutton said. “I just tell my guys that I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I get to coach basketball.”

      And coach he has – even after he was stricken with the crippling GBS in the spring of 2005, just months after his team won the Ohio Valley Conference championship.

      Tennessee Tech coach Mike Sutton and player Daniel Northern watch late in the second half of the team’s 93-65 loss to Florida on Nov. 11. For two years, Sutton has been recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare inflammatory disorder. Associated Press
      Tennessee Tech coach Mike Sutton yells at his bench
      Kevin Schnepf Archive
      After complaining about a nagging cough and some dizzy spells while attending an NBA tryout camp, Sutton suddenly found himself in the hospital. He stayed there for eight months with most of his body paralyzed – requiring a ventilator to breathe for three months.

      “I wondered if I was going to die,” Sutton said. “I couldn’t talk. About the only thing I could do was blink my eyes.”

      There is no cure for the disorder. But many people, like Sutton, recover completely with continual therapy. He says his three-days-a-week sessions are tough work – reminding him of his days growing up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina.

      That therapy helped Sutton return to the sidelines the next December. Sitting in a motorized wheelchair, Sutton had to coach his coaches – unable to speak loud enough for his players.

      Last season, he replaced the wheelchair with a walker. Through all this, he coached his teams to back-to-back 19-win seaons.

      “As a coach, you’ve got to admire a guy who is passionate enough for the game to battle through that type of adversity,” said NDSU head coach Saul Phillips. “More importantly, he’s got a good team and he’s a good coach.”

      Like Phillips’ Bison, Sutton’s Golden Eagles have lost to Division I heavyweights Rutgers (70-64) and Florida (93-65) this season. They bounced back with a 97-54 home win over Union, Ky., last week.

      It’s the type of game Phillips said will help his team prepare for their inaugural season in the Summit League. The Golden Eagles are led by first-team Ohio Valley Conference point guard Anthony Fisher and second-team forward Amadi McKenzie.

      Now seniors, Fisher and McKenzie were scared sophomores when Sutton became hospitalized. They saw a coach who couldn’t shave, brush his teeth or even scratch his face.

      “At first, the players were terrified,” said Sutton, who enters his sixth season as Tech’s head coach.

      Now, less than three years later, the players are getting used to Sutton’s newfound, full-volume voice. He still can’t do any hands-on drills, but he’s able to bat the basketball down when it comes his way.

      “I’m getting closer to my older ways,” said Sutton, who said he feels lucky after watching fellow patients die during his eight-month stay in the hospital.

      “There were days I could hear the family visiting next door. Then when you hear the traffic stop, you know that person passed away. You just see things that still make you appreciate how lucky you are.”

    • Anonymous
      November 21, 2007 at 7:31 pm

      Thank You John, for posting this Inspiring story and update. I enjoy watching him coach his team, I love His Spirit.