The Maneater

MU floors Stewart

The past, present and future of Missouri basketball came together Monday night, if only for a second.

With just moments remaining before the start of the second half of Monday's eventual 75-66 victory against No. 3 Kansas, MU coach Quin Snyder interrupted Norm Stewart's press conference to congratulate the man who led the Tigers for 32 years.

The floor of MU's Hearnes Center was renamed Norm Stewart Court during a halftime ceremony that included a speech from Chancellor Richard Wallace and the retirement of Stewart's No. 22 jersey.

Stewart played basketball for Missouri from 1954-56.

With the Tigers ahead 37-23 at the half, Stewart told Snyder "20 minutes," indicating the time remaining in the game.

After the victory, Snyder praised Stewart, a man he replaced in April 1999.

"I feel fortunate," Snyder said. "The opportunity I have is because of what he was able to accomplish here. I really wanted our kids to play well tonight and win. We didn't think it would be complete if we didn't do that."

Stewart, who was lauded by the sellout crowd of 13,545, said he felt humbled by the halftime ceremony.

"I may not deserve this," he said. "But I had cancer 12 years ago, and I may not have deserved that, either."

The Tigers held on in the second half despite blowing a 14-point lead. After securing their second straight home victory against the Jayhawks, Tiger players and coaches gave tribute — and a game ball — to Stewart.

"All hands up to Norm," senior forward Johnnie Parker said. "He's a great coach and a great guy. I wish I could go give him a hug and tell him, 'Great job.'"

Senior forward Tajudeen Soyoye, who was recruited by Stewart only to play for Snyder last season, said the 66-year old coach's legacy will last longer than the newly painted hardwood.

"Coach Stewart is a great coach," Soyoye said. "It was great that he came and supported us tonight. He's not the coach, but he's still with us in spirit."

Former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson was in attendance after hosting a pre-game reception for Stewart and former MU players.

Stewart dedicated the floor to those players and coaches during the halftime speech. Many were in attendance, including longtime MU assistant Kim Anderson and players Jeff Hafer, Simeon and Sammy Haley and Jon Sundvold.

Stewart, meanwhile, said the perspective that comes with age has helped him appreciate the job he left behind nearly two years ago.

"You get a lot of different looks," he said. "&Aring"&iexcl"&acirc"'

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