KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Inbounding the basketball near the Missouri bench during a 1985 game at Gallagher-Iba Arena, an Oklahoma State guard by the name of Bill Self heard ever-fiery Mizzou coach Norm Stewart cussing him out for a perceived infraction.
“The dirtiest SOB in the league,” Self remembered Stewart calling him — though he added with a laugh that Stewart didn’t understand the transgression “was probably from my lack of athleticism and not being able to get out of the way.”
Whatever the case, Self in his office on Thursday tapped his heart repeatedly as he called that a “badge of honor” coming from Stewart.
“I thought, ‘Yes, I have actually made it,’ ” Self joked.
Not because Self thought he’d actually done something dirty, but because he felt appreciated for hard play by the legendary coach. And the story came up not as some element of animosity as Self and his Kansas team prepare to take on Missouri on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse but as a point to the contrary.
Self’s admiration of Stewart was a major reason he wanted the MU job in the wake of Stewart’s final campaign 25 seasons ago.
“Coach Stewart coached there,” Self recalled, was enticement enough for the then-Tulsa head coach.
“I just thought he was great,” said Self, laughing and adding as an aside, “I loved how he could antagonize people and get under their skin.”
All of which might make you think it got under Self’s skin when Mizzou in 1999 chose Quin Snyder over Self after second interviews with the two finalists at the Hilton hotel near Kansas City International Airport.
At least in quarter-century hindsight, though, Self not only understands the decision but also reckons MU did the right thing.
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