Thursday, November 23, 2006

This Date in Mizzou History

November 23, 1988: Behind 21 points from swingman Byron Irvin, the Tigers top fifth-ranked North Carolina, 91-81, to advance to the finals of the Preseason NIT in New York.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This Date in Mizzou History

Here are three stories from the Tigers' past, as November 22 shall henceforth be known as Kick the Crap Out of Kansas Day.

November 22, 1941: Missouri halfback Harry Ice ran for 240 yards on just eight carries as coach Don Faurot’s Tigers routed Kansas, 45-6.

November 22, 1969: In the final regular season game of the year, Dan Devine’s Missouri Tigers clinched a share of the Big Eight title and an Orange Bowl berth with a 69-21 demolition of Kansas. Jon Staggers and Mel Gray each scored three touchdowns (Terry McMillan threw for four), and Joe Moore rushed for 167 yards in the resounding victory. One legend has Kansas coach Pepper Rodgers saying “I gave Dan [Devine] the peace sign, and he gave half of it back to me.”

November 22, 1986: On the heels of a 77-0 humiliation at Oklahoma, a Missouri football team that had won just two games all year took out its frustrations on arch-rival Kansas, whipping the Jayhawks, 48-0.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On TV tonight in KC

I'll be on Metro Sports Talk (6:00 p.m., Time Warner Cable channel 30) tonight to talk about the book with Mick Shaffer.

This Date in Mizzou History

November 21, 2001: Down by eleven points with 2:15 minutes to play, the Tigers mounted a remarkable rally against Iowa in the finals of the Guardian’s Classic basketball tournament in Kansas City. Kareem Rush and Rickey Paulding sank three-pointers to close the gap, and Clarence Gilbert capped the comeback with a free throw in the game’s final second to give Missouri a 78-77 victory.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This Date in Mizzou History

November 19, 1960: The most infamous football game in Missouri’s history happened in Columbia, as the undefeated, top-ranked Tigers played host to arch-rival Kansas, ranked thirteenth, in the regular season finale. The Jayhawk defense stifled Missouri’s running attack, and KU’s star running back Bert Coan scored two touchdowns in a 23-7 Kansas victory that cost Mizzou the national title. Two weeks later, the game’s result was reversed. The NCAA ruled that Coan had been ineligible to play, and forced Kansas to forfeit the game. But despite technically finishing with a perfect record, Missouri’s dreams of winning the mythical national championship were dashed on one bitter day at Faurot Field.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

That. Was. Painful.

I have nothing more to say.

This Date in Mizzou History

November 18, 1978: Tiger running back James Wilder ran for 181 yards and four touchdowns, and tight end Kellen Winslow accounted for 132 receiving yards and a touchdown of his own, as Mizzou upset second-ranked Nebraska, 35-31, in Lincoln.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bond. George Bond.

George Bond’s name has popped up in the papers now that Mike Anderson is the first Missouri coach to start his tenure at 4-0 since Bond did it in 1922-23. And while Bond’s name won’t mean much to modern Mizzou fans, he was an important figure in what may have been the most successful era in Missouri basketball history.

In the period around World War I, the Tigers rose to prominence as perhaps the best program in the country, building a mini-dynasty on the philosophies of former Wisconsin coach Walter Meanwell, who led the team to 17-1 records and Missouri Valley championships in 1918 and 1920 (Meanwell was called to military duty through the 1918-19 season). After the second title, Meanwell returned to the University of Wisconsin, replaced by Craig Ruby, one of Mizzou’s finest players. During Ruby’s two-year run at coach, one of his best players was George Bond, who helped the Tigers to two more conference titles, and a cumulative 33-2 record. One prominent hoops historian ranks Missouri as the nation’s best team in both of those seasons.

When Ruby left for the University of Illinois in 1922, Bond rose from team captain to head coach. His first team was stocked with talent, including three-time All-American Herb Bunker, two-time pick Arthur “Bun” Browning, and junior guard Don Faurot, who built something of a legacy at Mizzou himself. Bond’s Tigers opened the 1922-23 season with five straight lopsided wins before Phog Allen’s Kansas Jayhawks came to Columbia and escaped with a 21-19 victory. But the Missouri team regrouped and went on a tear, defeating all collegiate competition (they lost one game to Kansas City Athletic Club, an elite group of former collegians) over the next six weeks, and the Tigers pulled into Lawrence late in the season with a chance to earn at least a share of the conference title. But another close loss to KU – this one by a 23-20 score – ended their aspirations.

Bond’s Tigers finished the season with a 15-3 record and the nation’s number three ranking, but it was the end of an era. Bunker and Browning graduated, and the Tigers went into a tailspin. After the successful first season, Bond’s team went just 4-14 in year two. After two more losing seasons, Bond left coaching for a career with General Motors.

Media bits: The promotional onslaught for True Sons has begun, which means many media appearances for me. This Sunday, I’ll talk with Ron Jacober on mighty KMOX at 12:10 p.m., leading up to coverage of Mizzou’s game against Davidson. On Tuesday, November 21 at 6:00 p.m., I’ll be on Metro Sports Talk in Kansas City (Time Warner Cable, channel 30), and the next morning, at 8:25, I’ll visit with Tom Bradley on KFRU in Columbia. I will also speak to the Tiger Quarterback Club at their noon meeting in Columbia on Monday, November 27.

I’m also pleased to report that I’ll appear regularly on KTGR’s Tiger Warm-Up show before most Mizzou basketball games throughout the season. I’ll join Kyle Elfrink to talk Tiger history in the final ten minutes of each show.

Several more appearances are in the works, and I’ll report them as they get closer.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On the Radio in Jefferson City

In addition to Thursday morning's appearance on Fox 4 in Kansas City, I'll be on KWOS (950 AM) in Jefferson City this Friday, November 17, at 8:35 a.m. to talk about True Sons. I believe they'll be giving away a copy of the book at the end of the interview, so tune in.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

True Sons on TV

For those in the Kansas City area, I'll be on the Fox 4 Morning Show this Thursday, November 16 at 8:20 a.m. to talk about the book.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Three out of three ain’t bad

Three games, three days, three wins. Makes for a good weekend. Still, the whole “John Thompson Classic” thing confuses me. I’m not sure why a tournament named for Thompson was played in Columbia, Missouri, nor am I sure what Thompson had to do with the event, but nonetheless, it was great fun to finally start the Mike Anderson era at Mizzou.

As for the Tigers’ play, it wasn’t always pretty, but it was usually entertaining, and the effort was heartening. The defense, when executed at a high level, is electrifying, and the ball movement on offense was impressive, especially on Friday night (the guards were terrific and Leo Lyons produced some slick interior passes). The days of bounce-bounce-bounce on the perimeter are over . . . Let's raise a glass to Kalen Grimes. With Kevin Young gone and no experienced big men on the team, it was imperative for Grimes to step up this year, and it appears that he has embraced the challenge, both in his effort on the court and in his conditioning off of it. His tournament MVP award was well-deserved . . . In the first two games of the weekend, I think we saw how hard it is to play a full 40 minutes with the kind of intensity Anderson’s system demands, especially for a team not used to playing with that sort of mental stamina. I’m willing to attribute Missouri’s second half lulls to a lapse in concentration, and I’m prone to believe that Army’s comeback on Saturday will be good for the team. If the Tigers didn’t understand how dangerous a letdown can be, they do now. . . I’m not sure which of these variations on the same theme is more remarkable: that Nick Berardini (three points) outscored Marshall Brown (two) in the Tigers’ opening game, or that Mizzou scored 101 points despite Brown’s meager output. . . Honk if you thought Matt Lawrence would score 27 points in any game this season, let alone the first one . . . I spotted Nolan Richardson at the Arena on Friday and Saturday, and it’s still a little jarring to think of him as a Tiger fan, especially with all the bruising battles his Arkansas teams had against Mizzou back in the day . . . I stopped by the Tiger radio wrap-up show on Friday night at T. K. Brothers to see Todd Donoho (the show’s host), and I chatted briefly with associate head coach Melvin Watkins. We talked about what an impressive all-around performance Leo Lyons gave against North Carolina A&T, and how mature freshman guard J. T. Tiller appeared in his first collegiate game . . . Years ago, an acquaintance complained that one particularly notable pianist played with an ugly technique. “Maybe,” I said, “but he sounds great.” That’s sort of how I feel when watching Keon Lawrence and his crazy elbows chuck up a three-point shot. Shooting form aside, it was great to see Keon return from injury three weeks ahead of schedule; he certainly gave the Tigers a boost with his presence and his energy . . . Milestone watch: Mike Anderson is the first Missouri men’s basketball coach to win his first three games at the helm since Sparky Stalcup’s Tigers beat Drake, Westminster and St. Louis University to start the 1946-47 season. If Mizzou can handle Lipscomb and Davidson in the coming week, Anderson would match the 5-0 start that George Bond enjoyed in 1922-23. Then, if the Tigers can top Stephen F. Austin, Anderson would be off to the best start of any new coach since Craig Ruby, who tasted victory in the first 17 games of the 1920-21 season. Suffice it to say that if Anderson could equal or surpass Ruby’s mark, there would be euphoria in Columbia and disbelief across America. . . . The Recruiting front: With just one scholarship currently available for next season, the Tigers’ top target appears to be Tyrel Reed, a 6’3” point guard from Burlington, Kansas, and Mike DeArmond reports that Mizzou’s staff is also pursuing 6’ 1” Anthony Nelson, from Plainfield, New Jersey. I’ll confess to being puzzled by the strategy. With juniors Stefhon Hannah and Jason Horton and freshmen J. T. Tiller and Keon Lawrence all set to return next year, with each capable of playing the point, and with a relative paucity of skilled post players on the roster, I’m surprised that the staff isn’t focusing its efforts on big men. Missouri should have seven scholarships to offer for the 2008-09 season, and could pursue both a high school and a junior college point guard in that class, if necessary. Still, it’s safe to say that Mike Anderson knows better than I do the kinds of players he needs to succeed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This Date in Mizzou History

November 12, 1960: Behind 169 yards rushing from Norris Stevenson, the Tigers travel to Norman and whip Oklahoma, 41-19, to move to 9-0 on the season and leap to number one in the wire service polls for the first time in school history.

Friday, November 10, 2006

On the radio

If anyone in Mid-Missouri cares to hear my dulcet tones, I'll be on 1580 KTGR with Kyle Elfrink at around 5:25 this evening to talk about the book and the first century of Mizzou hoops.

Welcome to Century Two

It starts tonight. The second century of Missouri Tigers basketball. A new era, with a new coach, new team, new hope, and hopefully, a new pride.

When I started working on the project that became True Sons, there was nothing but hope in the program. We had not yet heard of Ricky Clemons or the lauded recruiting class of Robert Whaley, Jeffrey Ferguson, Duane John and Uche Okafor. Tiger teams coalesced around the character of Brian Grawer and Clarence Gilbert. They could make us proud even in defeat (as against Duke in the 2001 NCAA Tournament), but especially in victory, most notably in the run to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2002. At that moment, it was a program ascending, and as I looked toward the horizon, I could see a fairytale ending to the first 100 years, a book that concluded with a trip to the Final Four, a prize that has eluded us, and in some ways defined us, for far too long.

Now, that seems like such a long time ago. You know the history, I don’t need to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that the events of the past four seasons have shaken Missouri basketball to its core, and stripped us of our pride. But even through all the turmoil, we did get one good thing at the end of Century One: A clean slate.

The effects of the previous regime’s downfall may linger, but they won’t incapacitate Mike Anderson’s vision of Mizzou’s future. Football programs are barges, slow-moving things that take time to change course. Basketball programs are speedboats, able to turn on a dime on the strength of a couple of players, the right style, and leadership borne of character. Three years ago, Texas A&M went winless in the Big 12. Now the Aggies are league’s best team south of Lawrence. Two years ago, Tennessee fired its coach. Last season, the Vols earned a number two seed in the NCAA Tournament. Is it fair to assume that Mike Anderson will achieve those results so quickly? No. But is it OK to have faith that better things are on the way for Missouri basketball? Absolutely.

I think Mike Anderson is the right man at the right time, one who can build a sustainable and successful program over the long haul, the kind that will make Missouri fans proud again. I’ll be in the Arena tonight to drink in every moment of the beginning of a new era.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This Date in Mizzou History

November 8, 1997: Nebraska 45, Missouri 38 (OT). The kicked ball. Enough said.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Chaos in Columbia

The first “Wow!” came just ninety seconds in to the start of Missouri’s exhibition basketball season.

With the Tigers leading 5-0, Missouri-Rolla sank a three-pointer from the right wing, the first basket allowed in Mike Anderson’s tenure as Mizzou’s coach. The inbounds play that followed was a blur, the ball blazing up the court to Matt Lawrence, who took – and made – a three-point shot with thirty-three seconds left on the thirty-five second shot clock. That, friends, is lightning.

I don’t know what the effort against the low-grade competition of Mizzou’s two exhibition opponents portends for the season, but I know what it means for me – the need to re-teach myself how to watch basketball. The style is so fast, so chaotic, that your eyes and brain don’t get to rest while either team walks it up the court. I’m willing to bet that there will be at least 20% more possessions in Missouri’s games than just a year ago. I know that Mizzou’s brave new style is exhausting for me to watch. I can only wonder what it’s like to play against.

I also know that Stefhon Hannah is for real. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a Missouri guard toy with opponents – even patently inferior ones – the way that Hannah did in exhibition play. He showed leadership, smarts and impressive instincts in both games, and his stat lines – averages of 20.5 points, 7.5 assists and 5 steals in 25 minutes per game – were eye-popping, as was the chemistry he displayed with Marshall Brown, who should thrive in this new system.

Questions, of course, remain, especially inside, where Kalen Grimes is the only conventional big man currently suiting up. I don’t know what has caused Leo Lyons’s indefinite suspension, but his lingering absence could hurt this team and make for a huge opportunity lost for him as a player. With his length and athleticism, Lyons would appear to be tailor-made for Anderson’s system. For his sake and the sake of the team, here’s hoping that Leo gets it together and soon.

Random notes: I saw only a little of Kansas’s exhibition opener against Washburn, but I saw, read and heard enough to know that the Jayhawks’ 6’9” freshman Darrell Arthur makes for another ridiculous talent on a roster that already is an embarrassment of riches. In 1957, when KU sophomore Wilt Chamberlain was systematically destroying conference opponents, The Savitar, the University of Missouri’s yearbook, wrote that “until someone comes up with an idea to stop Wilt, the Tigers are going to have to settle for some position besides first in the basketball race.” Now, until and unless Arthur, Brandon Rush and Julian Wright leave en masse for the NBA, I fear that the entire remainder of the Big 12 will be fighting for second place. . . . Unsolicited advice to Bill Self: Cut ties with C.J. Giles now. As Mizzou fans know all too well, a player who is unable to control his worst impulses can destroy a team – even a very good one – from the inside. And the fact of the matter is that the Hawks don’t need him anyway. The Big 12 is hardly bursting with dominant centers. Surround Sasha Kaun or Darnell Jackson with some combination of Arthur, Rush, Wright, Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins, and KU goes 15-1 in the league, or start Rush, Wright and Arthur as a smallish but supernaturally gifted front line and dare teams to keep up (update: within a minute of this post originally going up, news broke that Giles had been dismissed from the team. Credit where credit's due, Coach Self) . . . . I have conflicting thoughts about K-State’s three-overtime exhibition epic against Division II Washburn. While my first thought is to smile, my second thought is to conclude that it’s no big deal. In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of good teams struggle in the exhibition season, as Oklahoma, Iowa State and Nebraska have all done this past week. Then, I have this third thought about the quality of the Cats’ guard play. While one number is surely an anomaly – KSU’s outside shooting can’t possibly be as bad as their four three-pointers in thirty tries would suggest – another sticks out at me, and that’s 15, the number of minutes that all-everything juco-transfer guard Blake Young played in the 55-minute game. If Young isn’t able to shore up the Cats’ middling backcourt, the transition to Huggins Ball could be bumpy, especially as K-State relies on inexperienced, offensively-limited players in the low post. The Wildcats’ forwards (Cartier Martin, David Hoskins, potentially Bill Walker) are terrific, but if they don’t get solid production out of their centers and guards, they may not make the expected leap above the pack of Big 12 north pretenders.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

All Good but the Game

Nebraska Brian and I left Kansas City at about 3:30 on Friday afternoon, and headed straight up I-29, combining a mix of the Waterboys, Ramones and the Sugar Hill Gang with lively discussion about Amendment 2 and the novels of Ernest Hemingway. After cutting across the southwest corner of Iowa, we headed into Nebraska City for a ceremonial Runza, and then up to Lincoln, where we gorged at the Valentino’s buffet, including the obligatory slice of bacon cheeseburger pizza (pickles and mustard on pizza? Oh, yes). Having experienced both of the state’s culinary icons, it was on to downtown, where a swing through the Nebraska Bookstore netted the night’s first celebrity sighting, as 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers was on hand to hawk copies of his new book on the final years of Bob Devaney’s tenure as the Huskers’ head football coach.

From there, we headed to Cliff’s Lounge, where neither the d├ęcor nor the music has changed since 1984, but the menu of signature kamikaze drinks has expanded exponentially (I had the Sharkwater, which has a bite worthy of its name). The next stop was surely the most colorful, as we made our way into the famous Sidetrack Tavern, home of the equally famous Sidetrack Band, which is led by the peculiar and bawdy mother-son team of Joyce and Paul. The place was hopping, and Mizzou fans were out in force, including a jolly bearded fellow in a Chase Daniel jersey, a nice couple from my home base of Parkville, and big Gary Leonard, who anchored the great Missouri basketball teams of the late 1980’s from his spot in the pivot. After experiencing some rousing Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash and Snoop Dogg covers, we headed out into the fresh air, and inexplicably found a used CD/record shop open and completely empty at 11:30 p.m. While the proprietor, with an unnerving enthusiasm, explained to my entourage (which by then had grown to four people) why he prefers Velvet Revolver to the newly reconstituted Guns n’ Roses, I searched in vain for David Johansen’s long out-of-print solo debut, but found a copy of Jesse Malin’s The Heat, an album my buddy Trip (who was absent) insists will reward my investment.

The evening’s final stop was the upstairs bar at W.C.’s, which was pretty sleepy, thus allowing easy access to the bartender and unlimited play at the pool tables. As closing time neared, it was off to bed (thanks to Phil for the use of the couch).

Morning brought a trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru and a campus tour (shame on the poli sci department for taking down Brian’s 1989 student of the year plaque), including a peek inside the Coliseum, which long served as the Huskers’ basketball home, and which was one of the first large on-campus venues in the country. Then after listening to Nebraska’s band rehearse its Tribute to Geeks halftime show (it’s hip to be square, y’all), we made our way into the game.

The game. Yeah, that. You saw it. I don’t need to rehash it. Suffice it to say that after the buzz surrounding the Tigers’ 6-0 start, the subsequent 1-3 stretch has made for a hard come-down. Welcome to life as a Missouri fan. Still, if the Tigers can regroup to beat Iowa State and Kansas, the 9-3 mark will certainly exceed the expectations I brought into this season.

Nebraska Brian was sporting and restrained on the ride back, killing me with kindness, while the Hold Steady provided the soundtrack for the trip home.

When I finally get a chance to watch Friday night’s exhibition basketball game, I’ll have thoughts on it and the coming season.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Going into the red

I'm heading up to Lincoln today for tomorrow's clash for Big 12 North supremacy, so I'll have to watch and comment on tonight's basketball exhibition opener upon my return. I'm traveling with a friend who is a Nebraska alum. I've been promised the full Lincoln experience - the Valentino's buffet, a Runza, etc. - and I'll give a full report in the next couple of days. And here's your good omen for the day: My buddy and I have attended two Mizzou-Nebraska games together, and the Tigers won both.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

This Date in Mizzou History

November 2, 1974: Tiger Tony Galbreath rambles for 194 yards rushing in a 52-15 rout of Kansas State.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This Date in Mizzou History

November 1, 1969: On a day when Kansas State’s star quarterback Lynn Dickey set a conference record for total offense with 394 yards, it was Missouri halfback Jon Staggers who gave a performance for the ages. Staggers caught a pass for a touchdown, returned a kickoff for a score, threw a touchdown pass on an option play, and accounted for 295 all-purpose yards in a 41-38 victory that lifted the Tigers into a tie for first place in the Big Eight.