For a few years now, it really wasn't worth opening the newspaper in the morning ... no telling what you might read.
It's amazing where the Mizzou basketball program was just [14 months before their Elite Eight bid], isn't it? Then, it was a team lacking in maturity, listless on the court, and faltering off the court. Kalen Grimes had been kicked off the team. Mike Anderson, Jr., got a DUI. Daryl Butterfield was involved in a domestic disturbance. Demarre Carroll was shot in the leg. The program seemed rudderless and, quite frankly, unlikable. Mike Anderson had not proven that he could be a winner at the major-conference level. And then, after one of their more likable moments -- a come-from-behind win in Boulder -- four seniors and a junior decided to have a nice night out on the town. The next morning, Stefhon Hannah, Jason Horton, Marshall Brown, Daryl Butterfield and Leo Lyons were suspended, and Hannah was in the hospital with a broken jaw. The first story ("Hannah had nothing to do with it, he just got hit by a frying pan as an innocent bystander") didn't exactly hold up to much scrutiny, and after more incriminating details emerged, and Hannah's mother bad-mouthed the entire city of Columbia, and Hannah went home to Chicago and got officially kicked off the team ... well, this wasn't Ricky Clemons-level embarrassing, but it was embarrassing enough.
Fourteen months later, Mizzou got within ten minutes of the Final Four. Again, reliving the bad makes you appreciate the good that much more, no?
The Clemons Calls
Somehow, choking his girlfriend for watching Roots wasn't the worst part, nor was the eventual probation that hit Mizzou long after his departure. Hell, it wasn't even the ATV accident at the school president's house (when he was supposed to be "studying" elsewhere). No, the most embarrassing -- and morbidly entertaining -- part of the whole Ricky Clemons ordeal, from the great promise of Fall 2002 to the eventual resignation of Quin Snyder, had to be the jailhouse tapes.
On the evening of Aug. 1, Ricky Clemons placed a phone call from Boone County Jail to the home of University of Missouri Assistant Athletic Director Ed Stewart. Stewart’s wife, Amy, answered the phone. She said some guests, including the MU president’s wife, were coming over for dinner.
What was the special occasion?
The depositions in Clemons’ assault case against Jessica Bunge had hit the media, and Missouri basketball Coach Quin Snyder and assistant Lane Odom were publicly accused of giving Clemons improper gifts and cash.
"We’re celebrating," Amy Stewart told Clemons. "Celebrating your little ass because it’s all out."
In another phone conversation, she was even more forceful.
"You’re going to take them down. You know that, right?" Amy Stewart told Clemons. "You’re taking them down."
"I’m taking great pleasure," Amy Stewart said. "You’re taking them down."
Clemons’ taped phone conversations from jail, obtained by the Tribune through an open-records request, portray an athletic department and university bitterly divided over the former MU point guard....
In the recordings, Amy Stewart related a story, which she attributed to her husband, about the atmosphere at the Hearnes Center at the time.
"Ed come home, every time he come home, he be like, ‘Them crackers shaking. They going crazy. They don’t know what to do. They shaking. They can’t talk to Ricky. They’re like some crackheads running around there,’ " Amy Stewart said.
Them. Crackers. Shaking.
To see where this athletic program has come at this point, despite the losses, despite the turmoil, despite drama too creative for any other school to come up with in the middle of the decade, is so amazing and, quite frankly, heartening. ... And with all we've been through, I don't think we'll be taking success for granted anytime soon.