LOCATION: Columbia, MO
CONFERENCE: Big 12
LAST SEASON: 20-9 (.680)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 11-5 (t-2nd)
STARTERS LOST/RETURNING: 2/3
COLORS: Black & Gold
HOMECOURT: Hearnes Center (13,349)
COACH: Quin Snyder (Duke '89)
record at school First year
career record First year
ASSISTANTS: John Hammond (Greenville '76)|
Tony Harvey (Cameron '88)
Igor Kokoskov (Belgrade '93)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 20-18-16-17-20
RPI (last 5 years) 17-80-80-59-35
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in NCAA first round.
He was Missouri's coach for what seemed like forever. The next day he wasn't. Just like that, Norm Stewart, a man who is as much Missouri as Mark Twain and Harry Truman, said 32 seasons in Columbia, 38 overall, is enough. He was 64 when he stepped down and he was coming off a nice season. The Tigers finished tied for second in the Big 12 and earned the league tournament's second seeding. Sure, there was the usual postseason disappointment. But that never discouraged Stewart. He was always back the next season, storming the sideline, getting booed in every visiting gym, being Norm. Stewart hung around long enough to win 731 games and rank seventh all-time in victories. Only James Phelan and Dean Smith coached more games than Stewart's 1,106. As a player or coach, Stewart was involved in more than half the games in the program's history. At his exit news conference, Stewart said leaving was entirely his idea. The notion was hatched a few days after Missouri's crushing first-round NCAA Tournament loss to New Mexico and was finalized in Stewart's mind before the Final Four.
But the speculation had persisted during the season that Missouri athletic director Mike Alden wasn't happy with Stewart. There was a lack of response from Stewart when junior forward and leading scorer Albert White said he was turning pro. During the season, Stewart had a fallout with prized freshman guard Keyon Dooling (8.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 85 assists, 32 steals, 24.1 minutes, .459 FG, .286 3 PT, .718 FT), who didn't attend the news conference. In the last five seasons, nine players had transferred, including a player who said Stewart threw a basketball at his head. It may have come down to this: Stewart, who had given so much to coaching, wasn't getting in return the satisfaction he once did. Quitting didn't seem like a bad idea for the man who made Missouri basketball, who beat cancer, who started the highly successful Coaches vs. Cancer campaign. He has a home in Columbia and in Palm Springs, Calif. Don't expect a Lefty Driesell-type return. Stewart loves his grandkids, golf and his wife Virginia. He won't resurface. While Alden was putting the finishing touches on Stewart's retirement package and planning the announcement, the quest for Quin was under way. Missouri representatives were rumored to have talked with him during Duke's East Regional appearance in East Rutherford, N.J., although Quin Snyder said there was no contact. We know he was their man all along, although Tulsa's Bill Self made a spirited run at the job. John Calipari talked with Missouri officials, as did former MU star and Lakers' assistant Larry Drew. In Snyder, Missouri hired the anti-Stewart. At 32, he is half the age of his predecessor, and now one of the youngest coaches in Division I. He is the Tigers' Generation X coach, complete with the wavy hair. The image transformation at Missouri is striking. And not just on the outside. Dooling attended Synder's press conference and later talked about how Snyder would be able to "relate to young players. It'll be a big change. I'm looking forward to working with him." Probably not as much as Snyder is looking forward to working with Dooling, a marvelous talent who lost out on the Big 12 Freshman-of-the-Year award to Jeff Boschee because the Kansas guard played more. Dooling started only 10 of 29 games. Watching Dooling last season was to watch Missouri's future. At times, he was dazzling. During a seven-game stretch of Big 12 games, he averaged 16 points, 4.5 assists and shot .550 from the field. The run ended against Oklahoma when Dooling was fouled hard from behind by the physical Eduardo Najera, a play that angered Stewart but wasn't flagrant. After that, Dooling didn't seem to be the same player. But Missouri saw enough to know how special he is. "The guy is just a human highlight reel," Tigers guard Jeff Hafer said. "He usually doesn't disappoint." Somehow, he disappointed Stewart enough to sit on the bench for the final 17 minutes in a 19-point loss at Colorado. Dooling was having a bad game, but Stewart pulled him after he got in a confrontation with a Colorado player. "I let my emotions get the best of me," Dooling said. "I got things corrected." You get the idea that Synder will find a place for Dooling in the starting lineup. But there's a bit of a ticklish situation here. The other guards are returning, and 6-2 sophomore Clarence Gilbert (4.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 33 assists, 34 steals, 18.2 minutes, .349 FG, .273 3 PT) Dooling's high school teammate at Dillard HS/Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and point man Brian Grawer (9.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 78 assists, 61 steals, 30.5 minutes, .481 FG, .496 3 PT, .787 FT), a 6-0 junior, didn't do anything to lose their starting roles. The Tigers could start all three, but Hafer also is a solid player. Like Dooling, Gilbert made the Big 12 All-Freshman team. Gilbert didn't start until the final few weeks. Want more guards? There are the aforementioned 6-5 Hafer (5.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, .491 FG, .444 3 PT), and 6-6 swing Johnny Parker (5.3 ppg, .419 3PT), who can shoot. And there's heralded 6-4 freshman Josh Kroenke (15.4 ppg at New Hampton Prep/New Hampton, N.H. & Rock Bridge HS/Rock Bridge Mo.). More opportunity exists in the frontcourt, and pencil in a freshman starter. Small forward Kareem Rush (27.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg at Pembroke Hill/Kansas City, Mo.), is the younger brother of UCLA forward Jaron Rush and selected the Tigers over the Bruins. The Rush brothers led Pembroke Hill to three straight Missouri 2A titles. The 6-6, 230-pound Kareem scored more than 2,500 points in his high school career. The power forward spot looks like it belongs to 6-9, 240-pound Taujdeen Soyoye (20 ppg, 10 rpg at Meridian (Miss.) Community College & Saje HS/Lagos, Nigeria). Soyoye was a junior-college All-American who led his team to a fifth-place finish in the national tournament. He is physical, which the Tigers will need because there's not a lot of height or strength up front. If Missouri goes big, 7-footer Pat Schumacher (3.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 9.9 minutes, .542 FG) gets the call. Schumacher, a sophomore, added 20 pounds during the off-season and weighs 265, which should help him under the boards. He led the Tigers in shooting and had his best game against New Mexico in the NCAA Tournament with eight points and six rebounds. The Tigers will fill in the frontcourt gaps with 6-7 sophomore Matt Rowan (1.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg), 6-5 sophomore Kenge Stevenson (1.1 ppg, 0.8 rpg) and 6-5 senior Mark Wampler (0.6 ppg, 0.5 rpg).
Blue Ribbon Analysis
BACKCOURT A- BENCH/DEPTH C|
FRONTCOURT D INTANGIBLES B
The Tigers could be an NCAA Tournament team. They're expecting as much in Quin Snyder's first year. But there are some problems. Only three players on the roster have had more than one year of Division I experience. There are only two players at least 6-9. There's a new system to learn. Snyder said all the right things about that. The Tigers will run, take advantage of their perimeter shooting, etc. That's all fine, and the running probably better suits this team than any in the Big 12. But Missouri is going to have to find a way to stop taller teams in half-court sets. Then there's the schedule. Before Missouri rolled out the balls for practice, that was the first major difference in the philosophies of Snyder and former coach Norm Stewart. Over the last few years, the Tigers played few attractive non-league games. Stewart was in the process of upgrading when he stepped down. Snyder and AD Mike Alden finished the job and now Missouri will meet, among others, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin, along with traditional rival Illinois. The addition of Saint Louis was big news in Columbia.
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