COLUMBIA, Mo. • In his first two years at Missouri, men’s basketball coach Frank Haith had to build a foundation for his program and stabilize the roster. Now that he’s done that, Haith decided this summer it was time to reach back and embrace Mizzou’s history, particularly the team’s glory years under former coach Norm Stewart.
That’s how Haith came up with the idea of playing an October exhibition game at the Hearnes Center to celebrate Stewart’s 1994 Big Eight championship team. The Tigers will return to their former facility to host Oklahoma City University Oct. 25, the Friday night before Mizzou’s homecoming football game against South Carolina.
Missouri has not played a basketball game in the 41-year-old Hearnes Center since the final regular-season game of the 2003-04 season, an 84-82 loss to Kansas.
At the game, Missouri will honor members of the 1993-94 team that went 14-0 in Big Eight play and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, a group that included All-American Melvin Booker, Jevon Crudup, Paul O’Liney, Lamont Frazier and Kelly Thames among others. Haith’s team will wear throwback uniforms as a tribute to the ’93-’94 team. Admission will be free.
“You look at that first team (in 2011-12) and we had all those scholarships to figure out so we could stabilize our program,” Haith said Wednesday. “I think we’ve done that. Now we’re on solid footing. We’ve got good classes. We’re recruiting well. And then you start learning more about the traditions and history of Mizzou basketball. That’s exactly what we’re doing now.”
Haith pitched the idea to MU’s administration in recent weeks and discussed the idea with Stewart and several players from that team during Stewart’s Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament at the Lake of the Ozarks earlier this month.
“He’s been awesome to me. He’s been a mentor, a confidante,” said Haith, who serves on the board of directors for Stewart’s charity organization. “When I got the job here, there wasn’t a big parade for Frank Haith. But he reached out, we talked and he really helped me in terms of just being positive about things. I really appreciated that.”
Haith coached in two games at the Hearnes Center when he worked as an assistant under Texas coach Rick Barnes, in 2002 and 2004, both victories for the Longhorns, including an overtime win in 2004, the final year Mizzou played in the Hearnes.
“We had some great games in there,” Haith said. “I can remember one where they probably had us beat. Arthur Johnson blocks Royal Ivey’s shot, it goes out to the 3-point line and Brian Boddicker nails a 3 and sends it to overtime.”
Texas prevailed in the extra session 75-69.
Haith said he’s already been in touch with a few players from the ’93-’94 team that plan to attend the exhibition game, including Booker, whose son, Devin Booker, is a prime recruiting target for Haith’s staff. Booker, considered one of the nation’s elite guards in the 2014 recruiting class, recently announced his five school choices: Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri. Booker is planning to take his official recruiting visit to Mizzou the weekend of Oct. 19, when the football team plays host to Florida.
The Hearnes Center is still the home site for Mizzou's volleyball, gymnastics and indoor track teams.
• Over the weekend Haith’s team participated in a team-building exercise with the Missouri National Guard at Camp Crowder near Neosho. Part of the experience included a 5-mile excursion where the players and coaches were split into three teams of eight and were assigned different tasks during the hike.
“These team-building things are always good and they open up a lot of eyes when you have new players and a lot of new bodies,” Haith said. “Everyone stayed in the barracks together, so the whole team had to rough it out a little. There was no TV and phone service didn’t work well. It was good for us.”
• Freshman point guard Wes Clark is recovering from a minor surgery on his knee and is expected to participate in practices next week, Haith said. Clark had what Haith described as “a floating piece in his knee that needed to be cleaned up.” He’ll play in the exhibition games in October. “He’s ready to go,” Haith said. “He’s chomping at the bit. I’m just kind of pacing him to get back out there.”
• The Missouri women’s basketball team shuffled its coaching staff Wednesday with Michael Porter making the biggest move. Tigers coach Robin Pingeton promoted Porter from director of basketball operations to assistant coach, replacing Randy Norton, who left the staff earlier this year for the head-coaching job at Alabama-Birmingham. Pingeton also named graduate student coach Mike Donovan to coordinator of video operations and named Heather Page director of operations.
“Michael has had a tremendous impact on our program the last three years,” Pingeton said. “He brings vast experience and creative insight to our program as well as a wealth of knowledge both on the court and off. Michael brings a unique and fresh perspective to our program and I know he will thrive in his new role and continue to positively impact our program.”