Anyone who has attended a Stetson basketball game over the last 50 years has probably seen them, but many fans probably have no idea who they are or what they do.
Over those 50 years, the Hatter basketball programs have been the centerpiece of several historical moments. The men were led by legendary head coach Glenn Wilkes and his 552 career victories, the women's program was relaunched in 1975 after a 28-year hiatus, the Edmunds Center was constructed and became the permanent home for both programs, and several future basketball legends competed for and against Stetson.
Two men have had a front row seat to it all. Tony Tussing is in his 50th year and Don Tutt is in his 40th year working for the Hatters at the official scorer’s table.
“People always tell Don and me that we have the best seat in the house,” Tussing said. “Well yes, we have the best seat in the house, but half of it is looking down and concentrating on your job so you don’t get to enjoy just watching the game.”
“With everything I do, the game just becomes a blur,” Tutt added. “I’ll get home later and I’ll remember who won, but I won’t remember specific aspects of the game."
Tussing, who has spent the last 47 years as the Hatters' official scorekeeper, keeps track of all player points, fouls, timeouts and jump balls in the official scorebook. Tutt, meanwhile, runs the scoreboard, updating team points, player fouls, team fouls, timeouts and the possession arrow.
Since a lot of the information tracked by Tussing and Tutt overlap, the men frequently communicate in shorthand to make sure everything is kept accurately.
“We developed this bantered conversation that flows throughout the game,” Tutt said. “My fingers will get lost on the control pad and every so often I’ll put the score on the wrong side of the board, so it really helps having that system of checks and balances.”
“Don will tell me the time of the basket was scored, and he’ll say it to me twice,” Tussing said. “Then I’ll repeat the score to him just to have that extra check.”
A graduate of Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Tussing enrolled at Stetson as a freshman in 1961. During his sophomore year, he was taking a Physical Education class taught by then-Athletic Director Brady Cowell.
“Coach Cowell saw me one day that fall and he said, ‘I know you are always strapped for a nickel here, a dime there, and I have a way for you to make some money. We’ll pay you five dollars a ballgame.’ I was going to the basketball games anyway, so he would come pick me up, bring me down to the DeLand Armory, and bring me home. That’s how I got hooked into it.”
Tussing didn’t start on the official book. Another student, Yogi Watson was keeping score at the time, so Tussing ran the game clock for three years.
“After we both graduated, Yogi’s work was making it very difficult for him to get to the games,” Tussing said. “That’s when I took over the book.”
Tutt, meanwhile, enrolled as a freshman at Stetson in 1963 after graduating from Miami Edison High School in Dade County. Both Tussing and Tutt were members of Lambda Chi Alpha, but had different priorities when it came to school.
“We were fraternity brothers, but kind of off in different directions,” Tutt said. “I was at the beach partying and Tony was working on graduating. I made my grades the first semester, and then for the next five or six semesters I didn’t. It was the first semester my senior year when Stetson said they had had enough of me.”
Tutt got his “pink slip” from the school on Christmas Eve, 1966. He joined the military in 1968. He was stationed at Lakehurst, New Jersey, Adak, Alaska, and for two years at a naval weather facility in London. It was in London where Tutt married his girlfriend Trish, who he met at Stetson during his first enrollment.
Tutt left the military in 1971 and returned to Stetson to finish his degree, which he accomplished in just one semester. In the spring of 1972 he started working on a MAT degree in social studies while doing some student teaching on the side. One of his professors was also the principal at the Southwestern 7th Grade Center in DeLand, where his old fraternity brother was already teaching. Tutt was hired that summer and began teaching the same subjects as Tussing, often in adjacent classrooms.
"Sometime that fall, Tony said to me, 'What are you doing tonight? I need somebody to run the clock at the Stetson game,'" Tutt said. "As a student I never attended a basketball game. I used to shag balls down at the park for the baseball team, but never went to basketball. I filled in a few times that first year and then it became permanent after that."
Over the years Tussing and Tutt have witnessed all kinds of unusual occurrences. Tussing recalled one situation where a pregame error with the book may have altered the outcome of the game.
“We had one visiting coach come up before the game and check his team’s entire roster, put the starters in, and sign off on it,” Tussing said. “Then about five minutes into the game, here comes a ballplayer wearing a uniform number that I don’t have in the book. Of course there was the technical when the kid came into the ballgame. The game ended up going to overtime and Stetson won by two.”
Two other strange situations occurred in the day when the scorer’s table was located on the west side of the court.
“One time I’m keeping score and here comes a big foot right on top of the table, from behind us, not in front of us,” Tussing said. “Turns out it is Gus Gibbs coming to do his famous Stetson cheer. He just came right over the top of the table. That was an experience-and-a-half.”
Another situation involved a strange phone call.
“There used to be a telephone right in front of me, why it was in front of me, I have no idea,” Tussing said. “But one night it started ringing. I picked it up and said, ‘I can’t talk to you right now,’ and put it back down.
“About two to three minutes later it started ringing again and it rang and it rang and it rang while the game was still going. Finally we had a timeout and it started ringing again, so I picked it up. On the other end is this little old lady who said, ‘I am angry at you all!’ I said, ‘Ma’am, what are you angry about?’ She says, ‘You haven’t delivered my fuel oil yet! I have been trying to call you for the last 15 minutes!’ She is just livid with me and I’m trying to be as polite as I can with her. I said, ‘Ma’am, I think you have the wrong number because this is Stetson University.’ “She said, ‘Don’t play games with me, I know I’ve got the right number, now get the fuel oil to me!’”
Tutt also recalled a memorable experience during a high school game that was being played ahead of a Stetson game.
“One night, we had a high school game sometime around 1977 or ‘78, and somebody came to the door and said, ‘It’s snowing outside!’ The place emptied out, and all that remained were the players on the two benches, the table staff, the refs, and the two teams on the floor. There were probably 100 people or so who went out to see a few snowflakes before they melted.”
Before the Edmunds Center was built in 1975, the Hatters played home games in several facilities. The old armory on Alabama Ave. was the primary home, but Stetson also played a few games at Winter Park High School and old Orlando Junior College (now Lake Highland Prep).
“They also played at the Orange County Convention Center when they brought teams in like North Carolina or Duke,” Tussing said.
Tussing and Tutt worked at several of those locales, and they have seen several future NBA legends come through during their college days.
“We saw Larry Bird when he was with Indiana State the year they went to the NCAA finals, Charles Barkley when he was with Auburn, and Artis Gilmore before he took Jacksonville to the NCAA Finals.”
The pair also saw the Stetson women's team host #1-ranked Tennessee in 1989 with Pat Summitt coaching and DeLand-native and future Olympic gold medalist Bridgette Gordon competing for the Lady Vols.
PRESENT AND FUTURE
Both Tussing and Tutt have long since retired from teaching, although Tussing still volunteers at local elementary schools. He also serves as a track and field official and helps assign other officials for track meets at area high schools and universities.
There is no way to tell exactly how many Stetson men’s and women’s basketball games Tussing and Tutt have worked, not to mention the high school tournaments, junior college tournaments and Stetson tournaments that involve neutral teams. With an average of 20-30 games a year the figure for each has likely exceeded 1000 games.
Both said they plan on continuing to work as part of the table staff for at least a few more years.