Although the game ended on a down note Sunday, fans and former coach Norm Stewart received a heart-warming surprise.
At halftime of Missouri’s loss to Kansas, MU Chancellor Richard Wallace announced to a sellout crowd of 13,611 that Norm Stewart Court would be transferred to the new arena for play in 2004-05.
Stewart coached the Tigers for 32 seasons, retiring after the 1998-99 season. He compiled a 634-333 record and won eight Big Eight Conference titles.
The court was named after him on Jan. 29, 2001, the night his jersey was retired.
“It will be known, now and forever, as Norm Stewart Court,” Wallace said in his announcement Sunday.
Fans greeted his words with a deafening ovation.
The Tigers also released a statement from Wallace which said: “When Bill and Nancy Laurie asked us to move the Norm Stewart Court to the new arena, I thought it was just a darned good idea.”
Before addressing the media, Stewart had to wipe tears from his eyes because of the announcement.
“I did not have any suspicion of what was going to happen when Virginia and I walked out on the court,” Stewart said.
Stewart’s wife, Virginia, former Gov. Warren Hearnes and former players joined Stewart at center court for the ceremony.
“There’s an old saying,” Stewart said. “If you find a baby turtle on top of a post, you can almost bet for sure he didn’t get there by himself. I think we are all turtles, and there were a lot of guys that were behind me. There were guys that couldn’t be here but wanted to be here, and they’re the ones that caused all the commotion.
“I accept everything on their behalf.”
The court’s transfer will allow Stewart to remain a prominent figure in Missouri’s basketball history.
“I’m very appreciative they made that decision for this reason: My name is significant for all the associations,” Stewart said. “When you have a 50, 52-year history of being associated, you’re representing a lot of people. People tie into the university through that.”
Stewart, who also was an All-American player during his career from 1954-56, ranks 28th on Missouri’s all-time scoring list and is one of six Tigers to have his jersey retired.