Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 76 – Jimmy McKinney

A superstar at Vashon High School in St. Louis, Jimmy McKinney arrived at Mizzou with sky-high expectations, but his career was beset by injury (he fractured his sinus early in his freshman year) and controversy beyond his control (the Clemons fiasco, the end of Quin Snyder’s tenure). Still, even as he was shuttled between positions to cover for the team’s shortcomings, McKinney posted impressive personal numbers, recording 1146 points, 422 rebounds and 349 assists for his career. As a freshman, he helped the Tigers advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but his finest individual performance may have come in his junior season against Kansas in Columbia. Playing point guard in place of the suspended Jason Horton, McKinney scored 21 points on six-of-seven shooting to lead the Tigers to an upset victory over the seventh-ranked Jayhawks.

Mizzou Century: No. 77 – Charlie Huhn

Considered a giant in his time, 6’6” center Charlie Huhn used his natural advantage to control the ball and sink point-blank shots. With 14 points against Kansas in the dedication game for the new Brewer Field House, Huhn led a charge that ultimately resulted in Missouri taking the 1930 Big Six title. Then, as a senior in 1931, Huhn carried a team ravaged by graduation and other attrition and earned a place on the All-Big Six team.

Mizzou Century: No. 78 – Lynn Hardy

The original Detroit Tiger, Lynn Hardy arrived in Columbia in 1984 as part of an exceptional recruiting class that included high school All-American Derrick Chievous and junior college standouts Dan Bingenheimer and Jeff Strong. After contributing as a freshman, Hardy moved into the starting lineup in his sophomore season and gave Mizzou 9.7 points and 4.0 assists per game while running the offense from the point position. Hardy helped the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence, and then led Missouri to even greater glory in the 1986-87 season, quarterbacking the club to an unexpected Big Eight championship while scoring more than 11 points per game. The Tigers stood poised to defend their title in Hardy’s senior season, but a back injury sidelined him for 17 games and derailed Missouri’s hopes. Still, Hardy’s leadership, poise and tenacity helped Mizzou return to the league’s upper echelon in the second half of the 1980’s.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mizzou Century: Nos. 79 & 80 – Denver Miller and Kenneth “Duke” Jorgensen

The backcourt tandem of Denver Miller and Kenneth “Duke” Jorgensen headlined some modestly successful Tiger teams in the early 1930’s, the darkest days of the Great Depression. Miller played through a fractured cheekbone in his junior season and then became a star as a senior. A stalwart of Coach George Edwards’s double-post offense, Miller made the all-conference squad and then handed the Tiger team captaincy to Jorgensen, who stood one class behind. A heady guard with a soft touch from long range, Jorgensen earned second-team All-Big Six honors as a junior and then claimed a spot on the first team in his final season.

Mizzou Century: No. 81 – Gary Leonard

One of the biggest Tigers ever, 7’1” Gary Leonard came to Mizzou from Belleville, Illinois, and had an immediate impact, starting 20 games in the 1985-86 season, his freshman campaign. A complementary player to stars like Derrick Chievous and Byron Irvin, Leonard contributed to teams that made four NCAA Tournament appearances, won two Big Eight conference tournament titles, and captured the 1987 league crown. For his part, Leonard remains in Missouri’s all-time top ten in career games played (132, tied for second place), field goal percentage (56.0%, third), and blocked shots (95, sixth).

True Sons in MIZZOU Magazine . . .

The media frenzy has begun. On page 46 of the new MIZZOU Magazine, there’s a nice piece by Dale Smith on the book, plus a photo by James Yates that flatters me about as much as a photo can.

. . . and Mike Anderson in Kansas City

New Missouri basketball coach Mike Anderson will make an appearance tonight at Harpo’s in Westport (4109 Pennsylvania Avenue). Reception starts at 6:00, program at 7:00. The event is open to the public. I’ll be there with two young kids in tow. Hope to see some of you there.

Mizzou Century: No. 82 – Lamont Frazier

On paper, Lamont Frazier was a run-of-the-mill role player who totaled a modest 667 points in a four-year career. On the hardwood, though, he was a menace. Shoe-leather-tough and junkyard-dog-mean, the 6’4” swingman from Charleston, Mo., made a career out of setting bone-jarring picks and playing a fiercely physical style of defense. By doing the dirty work, he opened up space for stars like Anthony Peeler and Melvin Booker to shine. But when called upon, Frazier could score, too, as demonstrated during Missouri’s magical 1993-94 season. His 20-point effort (including a three-pointer at the end of regulation) in the Tigers’ epic three-overtime triumph against Illinois, helped set the stage for the best regular season run in Mizzou’s modern history.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Time Out

With the holiday weekend upon us, traffic is sure to be light for the next few days. So we'll pause the countdown here and pick back up on Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Here's best wishes for a safe and happy weekend, and a salute to those whose sacrifice we honor on Memorial Day.

Mizzou Century: No. 83 – Jesse “Mule” Campbell

Jesse “Mule” Campbell, a varsity star from 1915 to 1918, was not as highly decorated as many Tiger greats, but he worked as hard as the beast of burden that provided his nickname. As the respected captain of Mizzou’s first Missouri Valley championship team (the 1917-18 squad posted a 17-1 record), Campbell was a key figure in the dawn of the first golden period of Tiger basketball. Mule excelled despite playing for a different head coach in each of his three varsity seasons, twice being named second team All- Valley. An aggressive interior player (he moved from forward to center as a senior), Campbell was a fine rebounder and an effective scorer from close range. Missouri posted a cumulative 42-8 record in his three seasons, making he and teammate Sam Shirkey the first Tigers to collect 40 wins.

Mizzou Century: No. 84 – Mark Dressler

Few other players in Missouri history are as defined by a single game’s effort as Mark Dressler. A 6’7” forward from St. Louis, Dressler’s career was derailed by a knee injury that cost him the entire 1980-81 season. Still, he contributed to three Big Eight championship teams while shooting 54.9% from the field for his career, fifth best on Mizzou’s all-time list. But despite those accomplishments, Dressler will always be best remembered for his inspired play late in the 1979-80 season. After star forward Curtis Berry went down with a sprained knee, Dressler scored 18 points to lead Missouri to a win over Oklahoma that clinched the league title for the Tigers. But it was an effort two weeks later that secured Dressler’s place in Missouri hoops history. In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers faced a powerhouse Notre Dame team that featured five future NBA players. But Dressler – the least heralded player on the floor – dominated. He scored 32 points on 13-of-16 field goal shooting, and sealed an 87-84 overtime victory with a clutch steal and pair of free throws. Dressler was nearly as impressive in Missouri’s next game (he made 9 of 11 shots from the field), but the Tigers fell to top-seeded LSU, 68-63.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 85 – Dan Bingenheimer

Dan Bingenheimer came to Columbia from Wabash (Illinois) Community College in 1984 and helped Missouri reload in the post-Stipanovich/Sundvold era. A 6’9” forward, the junior college All-American had modest success in his first season at Mizzou as he blended with fellow new recruits Jeff Strong, Derrick Chievous and Lynn Hardy to help the Tigers reach the NIT after a year’s absence from post-season play. More assertive as a senior, Bingo averaged 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and he blocked 46 shots, then second most in school history. His efforts helped Missouri reach the NCAA Tournament, the first of five straight trips for the Tigers.

Mizzou Century: Nos. 86 & 87 – Marvin “Moon” McCrary and Prince Bridges

Despite some relatively pedestrian individual statistics, junior college transfers Marvin “Moon” McCrary and Prince Bridges played major roles on some of the best teams in Missouri’s history. McCrary arrived in 1980, and though standing just six-feet-one, he starred defensively at small forward, often shutting down much bigger opponents. His efforts helped the Tigers to the 1981 Big Eight championship, Mizzou’s second straight title. Prince Bridges joined the squad a year later and the Tigers reached even greater heights. An insanely athletic point guard, Bridges quarterbacked the offense and gave Missouri another formidable defensive presence. Together with established stars Ricky Frazier, Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold, McCrary and Bridges helped the Tigers reach the top of the national polls while winning the Big Eight regular season and conference tournament titles. Then, after McCrary’s graduation, Bridges returned for the 1982-83 season and Missouri won an unprecedented fourth straight Big Eight championship.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 88 – Ken Doughty

A powerful 6’0” guard from Herrin, Illinois, Ken Doughty bridged the transition from retiring coach Sparky Stalcup to Bob Vanatta. As a junior in 1961-62, Doughty led Stalcup’s Tigers with 16.6 points per game, including a 32-point performance against Oklahoma in the Big Eight holiday tournament. Then, as the only senior starter for Coach Vanatta, he averaged 12.3 points while juniors Ray Bob Carey and Bob Price began to emerge as stars in their own right. For his career, Doughty converted 79.8% of his free throw attempts, a mark that stood as a Missouri record for eleven years.

Mizzou Century: No. 89 – Thomas Gardner

Score 40 points in an unbelievable overtime victory over Kansas and you make the list. In three seasons at Mizzou, Thomas Gardner, a guard from Portland, Oregon, displayed a flair for the dramatic. As a freshman, he sank a clutch three-pointer in overtime to help beat sixth-ranked Oklahoma State. As a sophomore, he christened Mizzou Arena with a 19-point, 12-rebound performance as the Tigers opened their new home with a win over Brown. Later that season, he sank two three pointers in overtime to give Missouri an upset victory over nationally ranked Oklahoma. And, of course, during his junior year, Gardner’s clutch shooting helped the Tigers overcome a seven point deficit in the final minute to stun Kansas in a nationally televised game. In three seasons, Gardner accumulated 1,067 points, thirty-third on Missouri’s all-time list.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 90 – Carl Ristine

A founding member of the program and a three-year letter winner, Joplin’s Carl “Curly” Ristine became Missouri’s first all-conference basketball player in 1909. At six feet and 168 pounds, Ristine played guard, a position devoted primarily to defense in those days. Though he played in an era when statistics were kept poorly (if at all), Ristine’s reputation as one of the finest athletes in the Missouri Valley Conference was widely known. In addition to his basketball exploits, Curly was a standout football player who played center and captained the 1909 Tiger football team, which won the conference title with a mark of 7-0-1.

Mizzou Century: No. 91 – Julian Winfield

After playing his freshman season at St. Louis University, Julian Winfield transferred to Mizzou and started 24 games for the tremendous 1993-94 squad, giving the Tigers quality minutes despite being slowed by a knee injury. As a junior, Winfield was called on to help counter the lost production of the injured Kelly Thames and the departed Melvin Booker and Jevon Crudup. He responded with a sensational all-around effort. The 6’4” swingman averaged 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while filling the role of defensive stopper for the Tigers. The bucket he made to give MU a one-point lead with 4.8 seconds left against top-ranked UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament would rank as one of the most memorable shots in Missouri history but for the remarkable, heartbreaking shot made by the Bruins’ Tyus Edney at the buzzer.

Mizzou Century: No. 92 – Win Wilfong

One of the most decorated high school players ever in Missouri, Win Wilfong came to Columbia in 1951 from Puxico, where he was a historically prolific scorer. But once he arrived at Mizzou, it was his all-around skills – and especially his defensive play – that made him a budding star. Eligible as a freshman because of rules necessitated by the Korean War, Wilfong immediately gained some unwanted attention when Kansas’s gigantic Clyde Lovellette stepped on his exposed midsection as he lay on the floor late in the finals of the Big Seven holiday tournament, an incident that nearly sparked a riot. From that point forward, though, Wilfong became best known for his play. Missouri’s second leading scorer (behind Bob Reiter) as a sophomore, Wilfong earned first-team All-Big Seven honors, and was on his way to a storied career until called to a higher duty. The United States Army beckoned, and Wilfong served for two years before resuming his basketball career at Memphis State, earning MVP honors at the 1957 National Invitation Tournament.

Monday, May 22, 2006

“If you go to Missouri . . . you’ll come out a man”

I’d be remiss not to note the recent commitments of Stefhon Hannah, DeMarre Carroll, J.T. Tiller, and Darryl Butterfield, who join fall signees Keon Lawrence and Vaidatos Volkus to round out Missouri’s new six-man basketball recruiting class (Carroll, a transfer from Vanderbilt, will sit out the coming season and then have two years of eligibility left). Hannah’s commitment is notable not only because it came at the end of a pitched and public recruiting battle between Mizzou’s Mike Anderson and Kansas State coach Bob Huggins (the man many Missouri fans, short-sightedly in my view, wanted to succeed Quin Snyder), but because of the testimonial the junior college guard gave for MU’s new coach in making his pick. It seems that everyone who knows Mike Anderson praises him not only as a coach but as a man of character, and it also seems that character is ultimately what sold Hannah – and his mother – on Missouri. When Hannah found himself unable to choose between the rival Big 12 schools, he turned to his mom. She told him If you go to Missouri, you won’t come out just a great basketball player; you’ll come out a man.”

That should be the new mantra for Missouri basketball. It should be emblazoned on t-shirts, tattooed on foreheads, written in smoke in the sky. Mini Mizzou should play Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair” and let the Tigers do lay-up drills to its finger-poppin’ bass line. Plenty of good citizens inhabited the program during the Quin Snyder years, but the epic disaster that was The Clemons Affair (really, it was like a train wreck inside a volcano under siege by aliens) overshadowed every good deed and diploma. Deservedly or not, to much of the outside world this was Outlaw U., a perception sealed when the NCAA branded Mizzou with the scarlet P.

That can change now. Marcus Watkins, son of associate head coach Melvin Watkins, is on the squad, and though nothing has been said officially, it seems likely that Mike Anderson’s son Michael (who walked on for his dad’s club at UAB) will join the team, too. Factor in that newcomer DeMarre Carroll (who made solid contributions in two seasons at Vandy) is Anderson’s nephew, and it really is a family affair inside the Tiger hoops program. Making improvements on the court this year should help Anderson recruit athletes. Making Mizzou a place where boys become men should help him recruit their mothers. And often, that’s just as important.

Mizzou Century: No. 93 – Scott Sims

A coach’s son from Kirksville, Mo., Scott Sims played a reserve role behind the likes of Willie Smith, Steve Dangos and Jeff Currie until he busted out in his senior year, winning MVP honors at the four-team Sun Bowl tournament early in the season. After averaging less than four points per game as a junior, Sims raised his output to nearly 16 per game in his final campaign. He also threaded passes to his teammates – most notably Kim Anderson, Jim Kennedy and Clay Johnson – for easy scores, recording ten assists in a game four times that season. Despite a short bench and a rash of injuries, Sims helped lead Mizzou to a 21-8 record in 1976-77. Later he was selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the fifth round of the NBA draft. He saw action in twelve games during his only NBA season.

Mizzou Century: No. 94 – Travon Bryant

A high school All-American from Long Beach, CA, power forward Travon Bryant contributed to three NCAA Tournament teams at Mizzou. During his career, Bryant recorded 912 points and 666 rebounds, plus he 119 blocked shots, a total that ranks fourth in Missouri history. A solid face-up shooter, Bryant played some of his best basketball during the Tigers late surge in the 2002-03 season. His buzzer-beating jump shot gave Missouri a win over Oklahoma State in the second round of the conference tournament, and his 18-point effort against fourth-ranked Kansas the next day helped propel the Tigers into the tourney final.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Let's speed things up

Starting Monday (May 22), I'll unveil two or more names on the Mizzou Century list each day so we can wrap this up before the dog days of summer. I'll also try to interject some other thoughts about Mizzou athletics when the spirit moves me.

As a completely random aside, my iPod just called up "The Great Curve" from Talking Heads' Remain in Light album. "The world moves on a woman's hips . . . ." Sublime.

Mizzou Century: No. 95 – Clay Cooper

Better known as a longtime Missouri assistant football coach and halfback on the 1940 Orange Bowl squad, Clay Cooper was an integral member of Missouri basketball teams that shared Big Six titles in 1939 and 1940. Playing forward despite standing just over 5’10,” Cooper made effective use of a one-handed jump shot, which was exceedingly rare in his day. But his biggest contribution came on the other end of the floor, where he was a suffocating defender. His stifling play against high-scoring Oklahoma star Jimmy McNatt helped the Tigers earn a share of the 1940 championship.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 96 – Gary Garner

An honorable mention all-league pick as a junior and a second team selection as a senior, 5’11” guard Gary Garner led the Tigers in scoring in 1964-65 with 15.0 points per game. With his efforts, Garner, a West Plains native who went on to a long career as a college coach, helped Missouri to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in nine years.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 97 – Tom Johnson

A graduate of McKinley High School in St. Louis, Tom Johnson arrived at Mizzou in 1967 as a junior college transfer. A 6’4” forward, his first season with the Tigers coincided with coach Bob Vanatta’s last, and Johnson proved to be a dependable scorer on a team that won just three of 25 games. But as a senior, he participated in the rebirth of Missouri basketball under new coach Norm Stewart. Johnson scored 17 points to help Stewart win his debut, a 74-58 victory at Arkansas. But his most famous performance came later that season in Lawrence, Kansas. The Tigers trailed by one point with no time remaining on the clock when Johnson stepped to the free throw line to shoot a one-and-one. He sank both shots, finishing with 23 points and giving Missouri a 67-66 victory that breathed life back into a rivalry that had long been dominated by the Jayhawks.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 98 – Bill Ross

Bill Ross, a 6’2” forward, contributed to Tiger teams that just missed Big Seven titles in 1955 and 1956. A complement to the more celebrated Norm Stewart, Ross’s efforts – including 22 points in a win at league-leading Kansas State – helped keep the Tigers in the 1956 championship race until the bitter end. After Stewart’s graduation, Ross teamed up with Lionel Smith and Sonny Siebert in a high-scoring perimeter trio that tried to compete with the new interior giants – like Kansas’s Wilt Chamberlain – who began to show up at other schools around the league.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 99 – Chris Heller

Chris Heller, a 6’10” center from Kansas City, endured a career marked by injury (a broken foot early in his third season) and inconsistent play. But he contributed to teams that won 93 games, including the 1993-94 squad, which completed a 14-0 run through the Big Eight conference. Still, Heller is best remembered for his performance in the 1993 conference tournament, an effort reminiscent of Stan Ray’s play in the 1978 affair. After slogging through a difficult regular season, the Tigers were seeded seventh in the eight-team field. But Heller outplayed Oklahoma State’s Bryant Reeves to lead Mizzou to a first-round upset of the Cowboys. Then he posted 20 points and 7 rebounds in a semifinal victory over Iowa State, before leading the Tigers to the title with a win against Kansas State. Heller’s play earned him tournament MVP honors, and the championship earned Missouri a spot in the NCAA field, where the resurgent center tallied 12 points and 12 rebounds in a first-round loss to Temple.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mizzou Century: No. 100 – Stan Ray

A center from Cape Girardeau, Stan Ray’s promising career was curtailed by injury and academic issues. The Big Eight freshman of the year in 1975-76, Ray (number 55) helped put the Tigers into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, where he posted 13 points and 15 rebounds in a loss to Michigan. Then, after losing most of his sophomore season to academic concerns, Ray returned in the 1977-78 season, but broke his hand early in the campaign. Ray and the Tigers struggled through a difficult year, and finished the regular season in seventh place in the Big Eight. As Norm Stewart’s team prepared for the conference tournament, Ray made what seemed like a foolhardy promise in a note he slid under his coach’s door. “I’m going to prove everybody wrong and take this team to the NCAA Tournament,” it read. He then proceeded to do just that, leading Missouri to a comeback victory over Nebraska in the semifinals before recording 17 points and 13 rebounds in a championship game triumph over Kansas State that put the Tigers into the NCAA field despite a 14-15 record. Though Mizzou dropped a two-overtime decision to Utah in the first round of the NCAA’s, Stan Ray’s inspired performance in the Big Eight Tournament sealed his spot in Missouri lore.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mizzou Century: The Top 100 Players

Starting tomorrow, we’ll count down the 100 best players from the first century of Missouri Tigers basketball, roughly one per day. The point of the exercise is to have some fun, spark some debate and revive memories of players both well-known and long-forgotten. For the top of the list, I’ve solicited opinions from a few friends and longtime fans, while the remainder consists solely of my own choices. I do not claim the list to be definitive either in overall content (plenty of worthy candidates failed to make the cut) or in its order (you could completely flip selections 65 through 100 and I’d have no real quibble).

In making the list, three factors were key: (1) the player’s individual statistical achievement; (2) his contribution to team success; and (3) his standing in his own day. Comparing players across generations makes for terribly inexact guesswork. The evolution of the game – rules changes, integration, etc. – renders meaningful comparisons difficult, if not impossible. If a great player from the 1920’s were to be magically transported to the present day, he might be a decent intramural player at best. But that doesn’t diminish his greatness in the context of his times.

The countdown begins tomorrow with a player whose star-crossed career was highlighted by an unlikely promise which was filled in spectacular fashion.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Just nod if you can hear me . . .

This venture is new, and I'm not entirely sure that anyone is reading, but if you are, thanks for stopping by. Sorry for the slow week of blogging. Over the past few days, my spare time has been devoted (1) to working on some design elements for the book (and by the way, it looks great; the editorial/design team of Kathy Sheridan, Lynn Parrott and Scott Rule is strictly top drawer); and (2) to a project that will ensure that this place is swimming in content for the next few months (hopefully beginning next week). In the meantime, if you have a jones for some Mizzou hoops history, check out this piece from the University Archives.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Rally Caps

A once-promising Missouri baseball season headed off the rails in April. But it may not be too late to get back on track, writes Blair Kerkhoff. Friday night's 12-1 win over Mississippi Valley State is a step in the right direction.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Tell us how you really feel, Bob

"You can tell them they're full of crap, and you can quote me on that," Major League Baseball COO Bob DuPuy, who decreed that baseballs pitched to Barry Bonds as he approaches career home run 714 should be specially marked, on what he would say to those who claim that MLB is flip-flopping on its decision not to commemorate Metabolic Barry's passing of Babe Ruth on the all-time tater list.

George Williams, National Player of the Year

A hearty slap on the back to fijitiger, who correctly answered the trivia question. George “Shorty” Williams, a center from Kansas City, was named the national player of the year for 1921 by L.A.’s Helms Foundation, which, in the mid-20th Century, retroactively bestowed honors on the best players and teams of basketball’s early years. An All-American in both of his varsity seasons at Mizzou, Williams was an offensive force unlike any previously seen in the Missouri Valley Conference. In fact, though he played in an era of low scores, the 311 points Williams tallied in his senior season stood as a Tiger record for 31 years. After leaving Mizzou, Williams led two different Kansas City-area teams to AAU national championships, the pinnacle of basketball in the days before professional leagues.

Tiger Trivia

One Missouri basketball star has won national player of the year honors. Can you name him? Hint: He is a member of Mizzou's All-Century Team. Post your answer in the comments section. The first person to get the right answer will win the satisfaction of being the first person to get the right answer.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Season on the Brink

A few months back, I was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Kansas City Tiger Club, and Roger Geary – one of the best Mizzou fans anywhere – asked a fantastic question: If I could pick any team from the first century of Missouri basketball to chronicle for an entire year, Season-On-The-Brink-style, which team would it be?

I mulled the question for a few seconds, and then the right answer struck like lightning.


For sheer drama, what other season could compare? For those who don’t remember, or who have begun to forget, the squad was loaded with talent, including senior Byron Irvin and precocious youngsters like Doug Smith and Anthony Peeler, plus nails-tough role players with names like Leonard, Church, Sandbothe, Coward and Buntin. They were riding high, having won 20 of their first 23 games and rising to number three in the polls – and then the sky caved in. On February 8, assistant coach Bob Sundvold was suspended for lending money to ineligible freshman P.J. Mays for a plane ticket home. The next day, during a flight to Norman, Oklahoma, head coach Norm Stewart collapsed, not yet aware that he was in a serious battle with cancer. By the time the Tigers pulled into the Lloyd Noble Center to play the fifth-ranked Sooners, the coaching staff consisted of one man, assistant Rich Daly. The rivals played an epic game, won 112-105 by OU, and best remembered for the riot Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs nearly ignited when he took the public address microphone and admonished a debris-hurling crowd with these immortal words: “The referees request that regardless of how terrible the officiating is, do not throw stuff on the floor.” From there, the season was a blur. As Stewart fought for his life and the team fought for him, the Tigers took a couple of weeks to get their bearings before ultimately defeating Oklahoma (which had risen to number one in the nation) in the rematch in Columbia, and then beating the Sooners again to win the Big Eight Tournament title. The wildest season in Mizzou history - a year full of subplots about life and death and triumph and revenge - ended with a loss to Syracuse in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Five other contenders for Season-On-The-Brink treatment (in chronological order) –

1917-18: Walter Meanwell, the nation’s best basketball coach, arrives in Columbia and leads the Tigers to a 17-1 record and their first conference championship.

1943-44: With Missouri’s team decimated by World War II, freshman Dan Pippin – at 17, too young for military service – leads Mizzou to an improbable NCAA Tournament berth.

1975-76: Norm Stewart wins his first conference title as coach – and just misses the Final Four – as explosive senior guard Willie Smith shreds Missouri’s record book.

1981-82: The unholy trinity of Ricky Frazier, Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold takes the Tigers to the top of the national polls for the first time, and turns a football-first school basketball-crazy.

1993-94: After losing to Arkansas by 52 early in the season, a team utterly without expectations regrouped to make a perfect 14-0 run through the Big Eight that wasn’t sealed until the Hand of Fate tipped Cornhusker Eric Piatkowski’s three-pointer out of the basket as the buzzer sounded in the regular season finale.

Other nominations?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Welcome to True Sons

Hello and welcome to my first foray into the blogosphere. The impetus for this adventure is my forthcoming book True Sons, A Century of Missouri Tigers Basketball, which will be published by The Donning Company Publishers and sponsored by the University of Missouri Alumni Association. True Sons, which features a foreword written by Mizzou legend Norm Stewart, chronicles the first 100 years of Tiger basketball, beginning with the formation of the first team in 1906, and continuing through the introduction of Mike Anderson as Missouri’s new head coach in 2006, with stories from every season in between.

The book, which contains 300 photos, will be published in early September, but you can reserve a copy now. And
MU Alumni Association members who order before August 1, 2006, will receive a book signed by Norm Stewart himself!

In this space, I plan to bring you news about True Sons, including information about publishing, speaking engagements, and the like. But we’ll also talk about Mizzou’s basketball history, Tiger sports in general, and maybe even some completely unrelated things that are interesting to me (and perhaps to you). This page is an idea in progress, and your input is encouraged.

As a matter of introduction, let me tell you how the book came about. I’m an alum of the University and a longtime basketball fan with a tendency toward compulsive curiosity. One day a few years ago, I was sitting at my desk, thinking about Missouri basketball, and wishing I knew more about the program’s history. In the span of just a few seconds, I went from thinking “someone should write a book” to thinking “I should write it.” And in that instant, I committed to researching and retelling the history of the program, from the beginning to the present, and in the process, discovered many fascinating stories that had been all but lost in the passage of time. Then, after considerable toil (and some help from my friend Steve Owens), The Donning Company and the MU Alumni Association enthusiastically agreed to help bring my somewhat impulsive idea to life. I’m proud of the book, and if you have any interest in Missouri hoops, I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

Anyway, that’s why I’m here. I’ll be back soon with more thoughts, anecdotes, ramblings, etc. I hope you'll check back from time to time to join in the conversation.