For a few moments during the Mizzou All-Century team celebration at halftime, the focus wasn’t on former coach Quin Snyder and the team he left behind, at least not entirely anyway.
When the greats that had played under former coach Norm Stewart like Anthony Peeler, Steve Stipanovich and John Sundvold walked out onto the dimly lit court, nearly all in attendance were on their feet.
Hot dogs and sodas weren’t high on fans’ agendas this afternoon, this was a different day.
This was the program they remembered: the Big Eight titles, the NCAA tournament appearances, the energy running through the arena. This was the feeling they have been missing the past few years.
After the players exited the arena, the questions surrounding Snyder’s resignation and the state of the program resurfaced. They of course knew this was coming.
Most of the past players on the court hadn’t played under Snyder. Former point guard Brian Grawer was an exception, having played for Snyder during his junior and senior season. His feelings for the embattled coach were still intact.
“I think it took everybody by surprise with the timing of everything,” Grawer said, “and you just feel for Coach Q and his family and everybody else involved that’s gonna, you know, the domino effect because of this.”
Anthony Peeler’s thoughts focused on the future.
“We got to change the situation, it’s a tough situation, I am bleeding gold and it’s hurting me every day,” Peeler said. “I don’t want to smile at nothing right now because we’re 10-11 and it’s hurting me personally. I told Sundvold as we were walking to the court, we got to change the situation and make sure something happens. I’ve been asking all the guys ‘lets come back and coach’ and we got to have 20 coaches on the sideline. We got to make sure that something happens to keep this tradition going.”
For Peeler, it’s about maintaining the foundation that Stewart told him about in 12th grade at Paseo High School, encouraging him to come to Missouri.
“Coach Stewart built a strong base and we got to make sure that base stays strong,” Peeler said.
Others, like guard Byron Irvin (88’-89’), brother of assistant coach Lance Irvin, looked back on the events surrounding Snyder’s resignation.
“I guess you guys know my brother came on the staff in September, and I’ve been following the school a lot, and I just thought with the timing on the whole situation, I’m a sport agent so I am around the NBA all the time, and you know it’s kind of like one of those NBA type of deals when you only got so many games left, I mean, you might as well just finish it out, just fight it on out.”
“I think sometime when you pull the trigger like that, you make it like a pro environment, like an NBA environment, and when you look back you really don’t see a lot of coaches get fired or they resign during the middle of the year like that. It’s college basketball, it’s not like that.”
As the architect of Missouri basketball’s good ole’ days, Stewart was the focal point of the media’s attention.
As a former coach who has dealt with leaving the game when he retired in 1999, Stewart said he could indentify with Snyder.
“You always have empathy for a coach and you have empathy for the players,” Stewart said. “You want to see things turn out well for them. Quin’s situation will take time because you go through a number of stages and I imagine he’s going through them.”
Asked about the university’s search for its next coach, Stewart said he would be willing to help and offer his input.
“I’ve always said, if I was asked to do something for the university, I’d try,” Stewart said. “If I am capable of doing it, I’d try to do it.”
For nostalgic Tiger fans basking in the afterglow of the All-Century team’s exploits, it was probably easy to wonder, if asked, whether Stewart is still capable of leading the Tigers.