Jock Sutherland: Lafayette was ‘utopia’

February 11, 2016 FieldsColumn

Jock Sutherland and Lafayette senior Harrison Lane at Saturday's Jock Sutherland Classic.

Jock Sutherland and Lafayette senior Harrison Lane at Saturday’s Jock Sutherland Classic.

BY MIKE FIELDS

Jock Sutherland made a brief appearance at the event named his honor — the Jock Sutherland Classic — at Lafayette this past Saturday. He found time to shake hands, chat up a few fans and reminisce about his good ol’ days in basketball.

Sutherland, who will turn 88 next month, was one of the most colorful coaches in the history of Kentucky high school hoops.

He was also one of the most successful. He led three schools to a total of six Sweet Sixteen appearances: Gallatin County (1959), Harrison County (1961, 1962, 1966) and Lafayette (1971, 1979). He retired after leading Lafayette, his alma mater, to the state championship in 1979.

Sutherland guided Gallatin County to the school’s first state tournament in his fourth season there, in 1959. He still stays in touch with those Wildcat players, and had lunch with them recently. “They’re going to be my pallbearers,” Sutherland said.

He moved on to Harrison County and led that school to its first Sweet Sixteen, in 1961. The Thorobreds also won the 10th Region title in 1962 and 1966.

Those ’66 ‘Breds, who lost to eventual state champ Shelby County 63-62 in the quarterfinals in Freedom Hall, are still the only Harrison County team to win 30 games.

“That was a coach’s paradise,” Sutherland said of his time in Cynthiana. “It was a wonderful town. Every year we had good players who always worked hard. Harrison County had a lot to do with the kind of basketball coach I turned out to be.

“But my utopia coaching basketball was Lafayette because that’s who I am. I love this place.”

Sutherland capped his career by watching his Generals cut down the nets in Rupp Arena in 1979.

“I was the worst high school basketball coach in the world my first game at Gallatin County,” he said. “The last night I coached at Lafayette, I was the best. I went from the bottom to the top, so I figured that was a damn good time to quit.”

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