Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cass County, Here I Come

I'll be the featured speaker at the Spring Banquet of the Cass County chapter of the Mizzou Alumni Association this Thursday, April 26, in Harrisonville. Details here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Call From the Hall

This week, Norm Stewart was selected for enshrinement into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. I’d say that the honor is long overdue, but the College Hoops Hall hasn’t even been built yet, so it’s pretty much right on time.

The old coach is good at a lot of things, but none more than winning – 731 victories as a head coach, 634 at Missouri – and telling stories. Norm Stewart tells more stories than anyone else I’ve known. And if any part of a story is true, it counts as a true story. By that standard, what I write here is genuine, verifiable and factual, except the parts that are not.

The Missouri Tigers won a total of six games in the two years before Stewart became head coach. The Tigers lost a total of six games in Stewart’s fifth season.

Missouri borders eight other states, the most in the nation. Norm Stewart can defend all eight borders simultaneously.

Norm Stewart coached the Tigers to their first 20-win season. And their seventeenth.

Cancer tried to mess with Norm Stewart once. Cancer learned its lesson.

Before Norm Stewart took over, Missouri had won its last league championship in 1940, and its last conference tournament title in 1954. Stewart’s Tigers captured league crowns in 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1990 and 1994. They won conference tournaments in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993.

Long ago, a small tornado threatened central Missouri until Norm Stewart stood up and fought it off with his bare hands. Years later, a larger one came through, so he had Al Eberhard help him.

Once, in a hard-fought game against Kansas State, Stewart wanted to fire up the Hearnes Center crowd, but he didn’t want to pick up a technical foul, so he got in an official’s face, stomping, veins popping from his forehead, and screamed, “Do you see that tie Jack Hartman is wearing?!?! That’s got to be the ugliest tie in the whole %$#@&*% world!!! I can’t believe how ugly that thing is!!!” The crowd went bonkers. Missouri went on to win.

Sailors sometimes complain about Stewart’s language.

In 1989, while recuperating from cancer surgery, Norm Stewart heard that his players were rebelling against interim coach Rich Daly. So Stewart assembled the team and said “If Coach Daly asks you to stand on your head and crap through your nose, you stand on your head and blow.” A week later, the Tigers beat second-ranked Oklahoma to win the Big Eight tournament.

WWND? He’d kick your ass and make you like it, that’s WNWD.

Coach Stewart wrote the forward to this book and he wants you to buy a copy.

Phog Allen tried to recruit Norm Stewart to play basketball at Kansas. Phog didn’t know Norm very well.

Take 300 wins off of Norm Stewart’s record at Missouri and he’s still above .500.

As a sophomore at Mizzou, Norm Stewart went out for baseball on a bet with a fellow student. He made the team and helped the Tigers win the national championship. Stewart won the bet.

Before Norm Stewart became Missouri’s head coach, the Tigers had last appeared in the Associated Press poll in the 1954-55 season, when he was an all-conference basketball player, and they made it to number six, their highest ranking to that point. Stewart led the Tigers back into the poll in 1971-72, his fifth season. He had them at number five the next year. They reached number one for the first time in the 1981-82 season. They did it again – twice – in 1989-90.

Norm Stewart walks into a room and pride follows.

So here’s to Norm Stewart, a hall of famer – our hall of famer – and the truest Tiger of them all. Congratulations on an honor well-deserved.