Braggin' Rights coaches tell their story

Braggin' Rights coaches tell their story

With Illinois and Missouri set to meet Saturday in St. Louis for the 30th consecutive year, staff writer Bob Asmussen tracked down all the former coaches in the series — at least, the ones who live in the country (Quin Snyder is an assistant with Euroleague power CSKA Moscow). Here’s what the coaches had to say:

BRUCE WEBER
(Braggin’ Rights record: 6-3)


What is your favorite memory from the Border War? “Probably the first year (at Illinois) when we beat them 71-70 (in 2003) without Deron Williams. He was hurt and Missouri was favored to win the game. We took a big lead in the first half, and they came roaring back in the second half before we were able pull it out. I remember Jerrance Howard doing the Indian dance in the locker room and the kids lifting up the trophy.”

What’s the one thing people don’t realize about the game that you experienced as a coach? “I think people don’t realize how high the level of play is in the game. Both schools are really invested and want to win the game. The players take pride in winning the game. It is important to them even though it is early in the year and not a conference game.”

Is it the best rivalry game in college basketball? “There are a lot of great rivalry games, but I think it is definitely one of best games of the nonconference season. It is a very unique and intense rivalry where you have two schools from bordering states in different conferences in a true neutral-court environment.”

LOU HENSON (Braggin’ Rights record: 10-5)

What is your favorite memory from the Border War? “When Kenny Battle and those guys were there, Missouri had us down 19 about halftime. We came back and won the game. That was a great comeback. They won the Big Eight that year. They had a great team, but we came back and won it. That’s one of the biggest games I’ve seen. But the most devastating game, we had them down about 12 with three minutes to go and they made three or four threes and sent that thing into overtime. In regulation, it was tied and Kiwane Garris was fouled. He goes to the free throw line and he missed both of them. And they won in three overtimes. Very devastating.”

What’s the one thing people don’t realize about the game that you experienced as a coach? “At one time, because we were beating Norm (Stewart), he wanted to go back to home-and-home. I said, ‘Norm, we can’t do that. Fans, they love it.’ The rivalry between the coaches really had a lot to do with the series, too. Norm is a good friend of mine and a hard-nosed guy. In that game when Kiwane was shooting the two free throws, (Norm) was actually at halfcourt. The referees wouldn’t even pay attention to him. He was out on the court; it should have been a technical. They didn’t want to call it on him. We had some tough games.”

Is it the best rivalry game in college basketball? “It’s one of the best I’ve seen because of how it’s structured in St. Louis. I think it’s just fantastic.”

BILL SELF (Braggin’ Rights record 3-0)

What is your favorite memory from the Border War? “Winning all three games.”

What’s the one thing people don’t realize about the game that you experienced as a coach? “I’m not sure there was any one thing that I learned as a coach. The fans taught me a lot about the game in that I always disliked Missouri and it was easy for me to make it the most important nonconference game on our schedule. The way it is split 50-50, like the OU-Texas football-type setting, it was an atmosphere that was probably better than any NCAA tournament because everybody in the building had a vested interest.”

Is it the best rivalry game in college basketball? “No. I would say (North) Carolina-Duke would be No. 1. Kansas-Missouri would be right there, but as a nonconference game, the only other game that I think could rival it would be Louisville-Kentucky.”

MIKE ANDERSON (Braggin’ Rights record 2-3)

What is your favorite memory from the Border War? “It’s right before Christmas. The best memories would be the games in which we won. When you do that most of the fans, and the players and coaching staff are going to have a pretty good Christmas.”

What’s the one thing people don’t realize about the game that you experienced as a coach? “I think it’s the atmosphere. When you walk in there, to me, it’s an atmosphere of an NCAA tournament. You’re going to have half of it in orange and half of it in black and gold. There’s so much energy and excitement. There’s a buildup to it.”

Is it the best rivalry game in college basketball? “I think it’s one of the best. There are a lot of great rivalries. If you talk to Illinois and Missouri fans at that time of the year, you’re pitting Big 12 (now SEC) vs. the Big Ten. It’s been going on for many, many years. Over a period of time, it certainly is one of the better ones in the country.”

NORM STEWART
(Braggin’ Rights record: 5-10)


What is your favorite memory from the Border War? “(Lou Henson) remembers all the times he beat me, and I remember the one time I beat him. One of the special things about that (1993) game was it was the last game played in the Checkerdome. It was so fitting to have such a great game from a standpoint of suspense. It was back and forth. It goes to three overtimes. We were down and Lamont Frazier hit two threes to put us back in the ballgame. His forte was not shooting threes. It was a great basketball game. We happened to be the winner. Another game, they had beaten us eight times in a row and we decided we could beat them if we didn’t care how many points we scored. We beat them 61-44 to end the streak they had.”

What’s the one thing people don’t realize about the game that you experienced as a coach? “The atmosphere in that game was intense. On both sides. It was an event. It was a great time of the year. There would always be different guys who would come down. Whitey Herzog would always come. Different celebrities and former players would be there.”

Is it the best rivalry game in college basketball? “It’s good. Give Lou and (Cecil) Coleman the credit. They started it. It was their idea to go to St. Louis. I always chided them that the reason they wanted to go to a neutral floor was because we had just beat them in Champaign.”

LON KRUGER (Braggin’ Rights record 1-3)

What is your favorite memory from the Border War? “The enthusiasm of the fans, the atmosphere in the building, the intensity of the games. It means a lot to players on both sides, and it means a lot to fans on both sides. It is certainly one of the stronger rivalries anywhere in the country when you think of half the building being Illinois and half the building Missouri. It makes for a great atmosphere.”

What’s the one thing people don’t realize about the game that you experienced as a coach? “People outside of the game probably don’t realize the significance to the fans, the intensity and how strong a rivalry it is. Certainly those from Missouri and Illinois understand it and feel very strongly about it, but what people around the country I think don’t realize is the depth of the tradition and the rivalry.”

Is it the best rivalry game in college basketball? “When you consider how few are played in a neutral-site arena where half the building is Illini and half the building is Missouri, that makes it unique. Certainly there are other great rivalries too, but I don’t know that there are any like that one, with the building being split right down the middle every year.”

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

aaeismacgychel wrote on December 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Quinn Snyder was embarassed so badly he had to move to Russia. Great piece. Hopefully we can snap the three game losing streak to them. For a while there, this series didn't really grasp my attention as much as say Illinois-Arizona, Illinois-Kansas, Illinois-Gonzaga, or Illinois-Maryland over the past 15 years, but since Missouri started winning again, this has gotten far more interesting.

bluehavana wrote on December 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Plenty of praise for this really great annual game.  I really love watching it each year too.


What I also noticed right away reading the responses...there was only one coach who answered the "Biggest Rivalry" question directly and honestly...Bill Self.  The other responses all seem to have a "he/she has a great personality" feel to them.     

ptevonian wrote on December 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Like the coaches say, you've got to go to one of these games to really understand it.  You can't tell from the TV what it's like in that building.  A huge place, packed with fans, every one of them groaning or screaming for every play.  Awesome.