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Sitting in with Sundvold & Stipanovich

The Homecoming grand marshals talk about basketball


Mizzou basketball greats Jon Sundvold and Steve Stipanovich are Homecoming grand marshals in 2009.

Mizzou basketball greats Jon Sundvold and Steve Stipanovich will serve as Homecoming grand marshals in 2009. They sat down with MIZZOU magazine to talk over basketball: 

MIZZOU: What is the most remarkable thing about MU’s current basketball program? 

Sundvold: Under Coach Mike Anderson’s direction, there’s an excitement back in Mizzou basketball. It’s fun for fans, and as a former player, you want to see the team do well nationally. When the team was in the Elite 8, we were in Florida on vacation, and there must’ve been 100 Mizzou fans in a small tavern cheering on the team. I’m happy that the team is doing great and proud to have been part of the program years ago. 

Stipanovich: It’s very innovative. You have to be very pleased with what Coach Anderson is doing now. He came in with a style of play that not everyone thought would work in Big 12. It not only worked, but it’s working very well. 

MIZZOU: How do you compare the coaching styles of Norm Stewart and Mike Anderson?

Sundvold: What’s noticeable is how hard both teams play. With both coaches, their teams might not have best night or the best talent year in and year out, but they play hard and fight. Coach Anderson’s guys play hard, and if they don’t, they won’t be playing much that night. Both coaches started on the defensive end and then took offensive opportunities when they arise. Both require players to be in great shape, play tough defense and shoot when possible. It’s not rocket science, but it’s repeatable night after night. Some nights you’ll blow people out, and some nights your defense will keep you in the game and then you have a chance to win at the end. 

Stipanovich: When I played for Coach Stewart, it was a different era. The 3-point line came in later and changed the game, and I don’t know if it’s for the better. There’s a lot more reliance on the outside shot. When I played, the game wasn’t as wide open. It was more structured. There was still a lot of freedom to do things, but not to the extent there is today. 

MIZZOU: How did your basketball career shape your approach to business and life?

Sundvold: The greatest lesson from sports is that you will get knocked down. It’s not always easy, you get back up and give it another shot. Work hard to prepare for game, and even if some things don’t go your way, you keep plugging along. I find that these things are true in business and in life. 

Stipanovich: The influences of my high school coach at DeSmet in St. Louis and Coach Stewart at Mizzou and all my other coaches greatly influence how I interact with youngsters. The disciplines I learned are really important to me. I coach a lot of kids, and kids’ work habits are just different now. I try to instill in them that to achieve success in sports or in anything, it is going to take a lot of hard work. It’s not always pleasant and fun, but the rewards are worth it. 

MIZZOU: How has the game changed since you played? 

Sundvold: Players are bigger and stronger now, and they specialize earlier. So, athletically they are better, but they are hurt by not playing other sports. Kids also play a lot of games in the summer. If you play games, you naturally play to your strengths. But practices are where you work to improve weaknesses. 

MIZZOU: How do you think your memorable 1981–82 Big 8 championship team would fare against Anderson’s “Fastest 40 minutes in basketball”?

Sundvold: Every team is different. Obviously I’m a little biased, but I think the 1981–82 team could play with any team. The chemistry of that team was great. 

Stipanovich: The game is more physical now. Norm Stewart had a very balanced approach in that he took advantage of athleticism with running and fast breaks but also would use structure to put the best players in position to score through his offensive set. The emphasis would always be on defense — defense is what wins games — and on fundamentals, which never change. You see fundamentals lacking to some degree in current players. When you spent four years with Coach Stewart, you knew how to play the game, no question. 

MIZZOU: What do your individual records mean to you now? 

Sundvold: The thing about basketball is that it’s a team sport. When you played for Norm Stewart, you played for a team, and it takes five guys to make a team work. If you look at individual records, it defeats the purpose. The fact that we won four conference championships says a lot about what we accomplished. If there was any disappointment, it was that we might’ve been good enough to win a national championship, but we didn’t. 

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