COLUMBIA – It was rolled up, sitting atop a thick blue chest, vibrating to the blasting bass of M.I.A.’s "Paper Planes." The numbers "2012" were barely visible.
That was the brief home of the Missouri men's basketball 2012 Big 12 Tournament Championship banner – a remnant of coach Frank Haith’s first year at Missouri and the Tigers last year in the Big 12, an emblem that represents the second ever 30-win season in school history, a symbol that takes coaches, players and fans back to a year that ended abruptly in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a loss to Norfolk State.
“I wouldn’t want the job of hanging that banner,” a passerby said. “Too much pressure.”
Microphones hovered above the scoreboard at Mizzou Arena. Seven feet from the cluster that faced the fan section was a swing, gently swaying above the court, hardly noticeable.
This will be the home of Missouri’s final Big 12 Championship banner.
The lights in the arena were dimmed. Clouds of smoke billowed from a machine.
“And now...,” the announcer began.
The fans erupted.
Two men gently hooked the banner to the swing. Moments later, it slowly drifted from their reach as an unseen worker tugged away from above.
Fifteen players tilted their heads, watching the banner slowly rise. Only two of them, guards Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey, truly understood what it meant.
“It was a good feeling, but it was also a little bittersweet because of the year we had and how it finished,” Dixon said.
“I was excited,” Pressey said. “I just can’t wait to get a national championship up there.”
Sporadically, the banner rose. A crowd that once was loud quietly waited.
“It was special,” coach Frank Haith said. “I think it’s important that when you take over a program, you become attached to that program. Those are your guys. We developed that right away. That was a special team last year. The adversity that team went through. To win 30-games, to win the Big 12 tournament, it was a special feeling. I’m just proud that I was a part of that.”
Forty-one seconds from it’s unfurling, two and a half hours from its vacant office, last season's championship banner hung above an eager crowd that was ready for the next one.