Tigers return home to proud crowd

Sunday, March 29, 2009 | 4:39 p.m. CDT; updated 3:35 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 31, 2009
MU's Kim English signs autographs for fans outside Mizzou Arena on Sunday after the team arrived back in Columbia. Mizzou fans gathered to welcome back the team after its trip to the Elite 8 in the NCAA tournament.

COLUMBIA — A crowd of 100 to 200 people — and even a dog — welcomed the Tigers home Sunday at the Mizzou Arena from their Elite Eight appearance in Glendale, Ariz.

“I support the Tigers, win or lose,” said Betsy Berry, a fan at the ceremony. “I had them going all the way; I had that much faith in them.”

Although the Tigers fell to the University of Connecticut on Saturday, Sunday's welcome-home crowd was just as proud of the Tigers for what they did accomplish. Most were decked out in black and gold apparel; some even boasted pom-poms, flags, homemade signs and Tiger ears for the kids.

Along with the chatter of the past and current games, music blared from speakers. The crowd joined in with a few “Mizzou-rahs!” of their own as the fight song played.

“This is a great team, and they did a great job,” said Tiger fan Dan Schapira as he waited outside in the sun at the south entrance of Mizzou Arena.

Children were perched on their parents' shoulders. Everyone kept glancing toward the road to see if the bus was arriving. Excitement was in the air with each car that drove up but turned to a disappointed sigh from the crowd when it wasn’t the Tigers' bus.

At about 2 p.m., after much anticipation, the big black bus rolled around the corner, its shiny sides reflecting the crowd, which burst into cheers.

“I lost my throat because I was yelling at the TV so much,” said Phil Grix, an MU junior, adding that he is excited that the “school is a basketball school again.”

With each team member who got off of the bus, the crowd cheered even louder, eventually quieting as the Tigers and coach Mike Anderson approached a small stage, where they spoke about their experience and their gratitude toward fans.

“This is a great sight,” Anderson said, which he followed with a “How 'bout them Tigers?” The reply was a roar of screams from surrounding fans.

Anderson told the crowd he has never been more proud of his team and that he thinks they were only a “couple shots away from going to the Final Four.”

After praising the team, the fans and his coaching staff, Anderson ended with an "M-I-Z!" for the crowd, who responded with a "Z-O-U!"

MU's Zaire Taylor talks to fans and signs autographs at the Mizzou Arena on Sunday after the team arrived back in Columbia.
Ross Steelman, left, and Mathew Rothermich play basketball outside the Mizzou Arena. Their parents, like many Mizzou fans, were present to welcome back the basketball team after its successful stint at the NCAA tournament.
MU men's basketball team head coach Mike Anderson speaks with the media at the Mizzou Arena on Sunday. A reception was held at the Arena to welcome the team home.
Mizzou basketball fans wait outside Mizzou Arena on Sunday to greet the team as they arrived back from Glendale, Ariz., and its trip to the NCAA tournament.
J.T. Tiller is welcomed home by fans as he gets off the team bus Sunday afternoon.
Mizzou fans cheer and take pictures as the MU men's basketball team arrives outside the Mizzou Arena from Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday.

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Frank Bier March 29, 2009 | 8:41 p.m.

thanks for a great year.

(Report Comment)
kathy white March 30, 2009 | 7:43 a.m.

Thanks, Tigers, for a helluva run and for giving me braggin' rights down here in the heart of TX Longhorn country. I'm so proud of my school and so proud of our great athletes and coaches.

(Report Comment)
Traci Wagner March 30, 2009 | 8:03 a.m.

I graduated from Missouri during the Doug Smith, Anthony Peeler years and I have to say ... THIS team - this 2009 Missouri Tigers team - has made me more proud than any other team in my memory.

To the team: You transformed hope into belief. You turned non-basketball people into tourney-watching fans. You sweat and fought and clawed and poured your heart into every win. You GAVE us something to be proud of.

To Coach Anderson: You turned a failing program into something of wonder. You gave the nation an "Everybody's team" with a different stand-out player every game. And more personally, you taught me that "Tough times don't last, but tough people do."

Thank you ALL for making me a proud part of Tiger Nation again. Here's to many great seasons and futures ahead.

(Report Comment)
John Beaumonte March 30, 2009 | 8:24 a.m.

Well said - I couldn't agree more.

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