Stormin’ into the ’80s
Three decades ago, Norm Stewart’s basketball Tigers won four consecutive Big Eight championships.
It was déjà vu for former Mizzou Coach Norm Stewart Dec. 28, 2012, in Los Angeles. Sitting near the bench, the Tigers tangled with a Southern California team while a sensational guard named Drew made several clutch plays.
Nearly 33 years earlier, Stewart stormed the sidelines while Missouri captain Larry Drew led his team past USC at the Hearnes Center. The modern episode featured Drew’s son, Larry Drew II, driving and dishing for UCLA in the Bruins’ 97–94 overtime victory against Mizzou.
“Larry Drew senior was probably the best point guard I had ever coached and the engine of that team,” says Stewart of his prodigy who now coaches the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “His son had a very good game against Missouri.”
If Stewart felt as though history was repeating that night, he saw it in the making in the early ’80s when Mizzou reeled off four straight Big Eight titles.
The 2012–13 season marks the 30th anniversary of the 1982–83 squad (26–8) that set the school record for consecutive conference championships.
Headlined by seniors Jon Sundvold, BS BA ’83, from Blue Springs, Mo., and Steve Stipanovich, BES ’89, of St. Louis, the Tigers also set a school record for consecutive 20-win seasons and amassed 100 victories in the four-year span.
“Steve and I get a lot of attention, but every team was unique,” says Sundvold, a 1983 All-American. “It says a lot about the coaching staff that it could take a different team and win every season.”
Sundvold contends that the 1979–80 team (25–6) his freshman season might have been the best collection of Mizzou basketball talent in school history — though the younger players had not yet matured. That team still holds the NCAA record for field goal percentage in a season at 57.3.
The 1980–81 season (22–10) highlighted the dominant rebounding forward Curtis Berry, BES ’82; junior college transfer Marvin “Moon” McCrary, BES ’82; and star forward Ricky Frazier, AFNR ’82.
In 1981–82, the Tigers (27–4) entered the season with high expectations, won 19 consecutive games and captured the No. 1 ranking before finally falling to Nebraska 67–51 Feb. 6, 1982, in Columbia.
“(Nebraska Coach) Moe Iba brought his team in and beat us rather handily,” says Stewart of his club that ultimately lost in the 1982 NCAA Tournament to a star-studded Houston team. “At that time, people didn’t realize Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were huge, amazing players. Those were tough losses.”
During the run, the Tigers toppled the era’s powerhouse teams, including Notre Dame, North Carolina, Louisville and North Carolina State. Although the 1979–83 teams never made it to the Final Four, they produced a Mizzou team record 11 consecutive conference road wins from 1981–83, three All-Americans, eight NBA draft picks and a 6–4 record against Kansas.
“The talent was good enough to win on nights when you didn’t have your best games. Somehow, someone made a play,” says Sundvold with a nostalgic sigh. “It only seems like 30 years when I look in the mirror or look at pictures.”
Mizzou begins 2012–13 Southeastern Conference play when it hosts Alabama at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013.