Stewart can’t quit coaching

Former Missouri coach keeps offering advice, even on golf.
Sunday, September 14, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:23 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

He is not pacing the court at Hearnes Center anymore, but Norm Stewart is doing his share of coaching.

For Stewart, the coaching continued Friday when he played in the Jon Sundvold Children’s Hospital Golf Tournament at A.L. Gustin Golf Course. This time it was advising his playing partners.

Stewart says he is enjoying his retirement from coaching. Stewart and his wife, Virginia, have a house in Columbia as well as a home in Palm Springs, Calif. The Stewarts spend seven to eight months a year in Columbia.

Stewart was 634-333 in 32 seasons at MU from 1967-99. He was 731-375 in 38 years overall, including six at Northern Iowa and was seventh in wins in NCAA Division I when he retired.

Stewart is involved with the University of Missouri and has an office in the Reynolds Alumni Center on the fourth floor. Stewart says he likes the office, but doesn’t spend much time inside.

“(I’ve) got a nice little place up there, cubbie hole,” Stewart said. “I’m not an office person. I never was when I coached basketball.”

The Stewarts are part owners in two local businesses, Chris McD’s restaurant and The Mark, a hair salon.

Stewart is not new to charity events. He is credited with setting up and promoting Coaches vs. Cancer, a charity that coaches across the country participate in to promote cancer awareness and raise money for cancer prevention. Stewart says other people deserve the credit.

Jerry Quick was vice president of the Missouri chapter of the American Cancer Society and had the idea for what was called the 3-Point Attack. Missouri ran the pilot program and then Stewart proposed the idea to the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The NABC adopted the program, which began in 1993.

The program has raised more than $20 million, but Stewart says he feels the money hasn’t been the best result.

“The most that’s come out of it is the fact that we’ve made young people on college campuses aware of (cancer) and what you need to do, and that is early detection,” Stewart said.

Stewart had a bout with cancer in 1989. He was on a flight to Norman, Okla., to play Oklahoma. He had a bleeding ulcer, and Stewart never made it to Oklahoma. The plane had to be stopped, and Stewart had to have colon cancer surgery two days later in Columbia.

At the same time, Virginia Stewart was in the hospital with a benign tumor. Stewart’s bout with cancer was one of the reasons he helped set up the Coaches vs. Cancer program.

“It kind of proves the point that we all know, that sometimes what you think can be the most disastrous thing in your life can turn out to be one of the most meaningful things in your life,” Stewart said.

Meeting his wife is Stewart’s favorite memory from his time at Missouri. They met in 1954 at the Student Union and were married in 1956. Stewart credits Virginia Stewart for supporting him over the years.

“When you have the good fortune of being involved in something for a long period of time, you find out how dependent you are on other people for your success,” Stewart said. “My wife ... we’ve been a team.

“I always jokingly say, and my best friends tell me it’s true, we were invited to a lot of things because of my notoriety, but we were invited back because of her good graces, and beauty and her charm.”

Stewart’s time at Missouri includes more than coaching. Stewart was a letterman from 1954-56 with the baseball team. He also was a top basketball player for the Tigers. His senior season, Stewart earned a spot on the All-American team, averaging 24.1 points.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the national championship that the baseball team won while Stewart played.

Stewart earned a win in the 1954 World Series, tossing a complete game against Oklahoma State. Stewart’s career at Missouri also included a no-hitter against Arkansas on April 13, 1956. It was the first no-hitter for MU. Stewart said it was a great moment, but he took it in stride.

“You have to understand, the ’50s were cool,” Stewart said. “You never showed emotion.”

The Baltimore Orioles drafted Stewart in 1957, and he played one summer in the Orioles’ farm system. He also played a half-season of basketball with the NBA’s St. Louis (now Atlanta) Hawks.

Stewart takes vacations on a regular basis and travels with groups from MU.

Stewart was in China on vacation with a group from MU on Sept. 11, 2001. Stewart said that people were sympathetic toward the United States. There was major news media coverage in China about the attacks.

“Really some great emotion expressed,” Stewart said. “They want you to know their feelings.”

Stewart keeps involved with some of his former players, mainly those who are coaching. Stewart has less trouble keeping in contact with Sundvold, who lives in Columbia.

Stewart says he is pleased with how Sundvold has become a part of Columbia.

“He recognized that his career was not going to last into his 60s, and so he started coming back and making a home here in Columbia,” Stewart said. “Now he has a flourishing business and he’s become part of the community ... and doing something like this speaks well for not only Jon and his family ... but people who are University people.”

Despite a 9-handicap, Stewart says his coaching ability outshines his ability to hit a golf ball.

“Both proved to be a little bit too much mediocre, but I would take my coaching over my golf game,” Stewart said.

Stewart played with Fred Parry, Gary Robinson, Bob Gerding and Tom Schwarz in the tournament.

On the 11th hole, Stewart joked with Parry. Parry topped his drive and then blew a putt by the hole.

“Maybe you’ve got your clubs reversed,” Stewart said. “Maybe you should hit your putter off the tee.”

On the 12th hole, Stewart told Schwarz to aim a bit under a little spot on the green to make the putt. Schwarz hit the putt where Stewart instructed, and the putt dropped in the center of the cup. Another coaching job well done.

“That’s how I made my living, was telling people how to do it,” Stewart said.

On the 18th hole, Stewart hit his approach shot to inside 10 feet.

“I’ve got to leave, see, so I want you to remember what a hell of a golfer I was,” Stewart said.

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