Archive for Saturday, March 2, 2002

Missouri’s Antlers ‘terrible’ or ‘cute’ but never boring

March 2, 2002


Former Kansas coach Larry Brown once sat in the Hearnes Center stands and chit-chatted with Missouri's Antlers before a KU-MU basketball game in Columbia, Mo.

Brown, who worked at KU from 1983 to '88, was sort of amused by MU's raucous cheering section. His predecessor, Ted Owens, never had a smile on his face in dealings with the Antlers from 1964 to '83.

"I thought the Antlers were terrible. They went beyond the bounds of good humor," Owens said in a phone interview from Tulsa, Okla., where he is investment business adviser for First Capital Management.

"I didn't handle it very well. They would arrive at the hotel and I was really aggravated the hotel people would allow them access (to knock on doors). I always thought it was part of a conspiracy with all these irritating phone calls and being obnoxious at the games.

"You often wonder, 'What are those people doing with their lives?''' Owens chuckled, putting a new spin on the saying, "Get a life."

Current KU coach Roy Williams, who is 5-8 at Hearnes Center entering Sunday's 1:05 p.m. contest, is saying only nice things about the students with the Antler shirts and headgear who sometimes wear dresses, but always carry banners and insult the Jayhawks during warmups before the game.

"I enjoy them. In the time I've been here I think they are really cute, though they probably don't want me to use that word," Williams said. "Humorous, cute, whatever word. I don't think they've ever crossed the line toward me.

"Some things they may have done to other people from other places or other times with KU I don't know about. I never felt they've gone overboard. Sometimes the night before, the calls in the (hotel) rooms, things like that have been difficult to handle. I always thought it's a very good college basketball atmosphere there."

The Antlers actually did Williams a favor one year at Hearnes.

"I remember going there and watching the Missouri state high school tournament. A couple Antlers were ushers," Williams said. "They took great care of me and got me in my seat and kept people away from me so I could watch the game. They were as gracious as they could possibly be. It probably would be bad publicity if their buddies were to find out that."

The Jayhawks do pay attention to the Antlers, who yearly display banners with the Jayhawks' home phone numbers and sometimes call the players at the Lawrence residences.

"Last night about 2 o'clock we got a (phone) call. My roommate answered it and didn't know who it was," KU senior Brett Ballard said, suspecting the call might have come from an Antler. "The guy just kept saying he knew us. He never actually said my name. I don't know if it was (an Antler) or not.

"Those guys are pretty crazy over there. They do some wild stuff. They will do anything to help their team win. The main thing is for us to not worry about them.

"I don't know if they'll disconnect the phones (at Columbia hotel tonight) or have somebody walk through the halls or what. Last year we didn't have too much of a problem."

Frosh Aaron Miles has heard stories.

"They (upperclassmen) tell us to beware of phone calls late at night and when you come out of the locker room sprint through the tunnel because they start spitting and throwing stuff," Miles said. "I enjoy that. I like when people root against us. It's motivation."

Williams said it's good the Jayhawk freshmen are visiting MU now rather than in the first week of the season.

"At this point in the season if you were a freshman and you were going there for your first road game, you probably wouldn't get those kids back in form for a month. We have played in some good environments, in front of some hostile crowds," Williams said.

One win from perfection: On Sunday, KU (26-2, 15-0) will try to complete a perfect run through the league against an MU team (20-9, 9-6) that has handed KU its first conference loss in each of the last six seasons.

"I don't think there's any question you'd feel a little more satisfaction, but how do you feel more satisfaction than if you are able to go 16-0?" Williams said as KU is one game from the school's first undefeated conference season since 1970-71.

"I never mentioned it to our team one time until after the Kansas State game (on Wednesday). It's the first time I thought about it. It was not a dream. It was not a goal. We can talk about it now because it's the next game."

How does he feel about KU going unbeaten? Here's a golf analogy.

"I am not lying ... I was on the 18th hole and I've got a 4-footer for 68. I have shot five 69s in my life. I'm sitting there saying, 'I knock this in it's a 68.' I forgot all about, 'slightly left to right up the hill,' and I jerked the sucker. I missed it about four football fields. It's the worst frickin putt any human has made.

"It's like the scene in Caddyshack the old man out there with lightning and thunder. My three partners were under the shed because it was raining. I said, 'I'm going to make this putt.' Ray Charles would have come closer. I might as well have gone over to those other guys and seen if the rain water could have rolled it in. Since that time, I've always thought, 'If you just think about the final result you forget to execute. You've got to execute the shot, you've got to play the game not think about what's at the end.' Ask me after the game how I feel if we do win. I've never birdied every hole, but I've sure tried."

Williams spoke to Drew Gooden last week after Gooden said it probably would be his last year at KU. It seems every week this past month there's been some kind of Gooden-to-the-NBA update provided by Gooden himself.

"I told him he has to be a little more disciplined to say, 'If we're not going to talk about it, let's not talk about it,'" Williams said. "You can only answer the thing so many times. I can slightly see the side of the media because you think one day he's going to say something. Jiminy Christmas you get so tired answering the same thing over and over.

"He's made some mistakes by continuing (to talk about it). If he'd just say, 'I said we'd do it at the end of the season,' perhaps it wouldn't have been as much. We've done it the same way here for 13 years (in waiting until end of season for NBA decisions to be made). It's what we've stuck to. It hasn't varied."

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