Stewart remembers Devine for giving him his big coaching break

Friday, May 10, 2002

On his way to logging 93 football wins in 13 seasons at Missouri, Dan Devine took on additional chores as the Columbia school's athletic director and tapped a young coach out of Northern Iowa to rebuild the Tigers' basketball program.

Norm Stewart has never forgotten Devine giving him a big break that day in 1968.

With Missouri struggling to just six wins in 49 games the previous two seasons, the Tigers pressed to a 10-16 finish in Stewart's first season on Missouri's bench, enduring a seven-game skid marked by a spate of narrow losses. Through it all, Devine's confidence never wavered.

So when Stewart won his 600th game at Missouri -- his alma mater -- in 1997, he snatched the game ball and sent it to Devine, along with a big thanks for an accomplishment shared.

"I sent a letter expressing our feelings and my family's feelings for the opportunity he gave me," Stewart said Thursday, hours after learning 77-year-old Devine had died at his Arizona home after a long illness.

Devine's achievements were legion.

Over 13 seasons in black and gold, Devine went 93-37-7, winning two Big Eight titles and making six bowl appearances.

While bringing the first black players to Arizona State and Missouri, Devine never considered himself a pioneer in integration. Devine stepped in as Missouri's athletic director from 1967 to 1970, hiring Stewart "because I thought we needed somebody who could come in and kick some butt," he once said.

To Stewart, Devine masterfully melded a gentle touch with a firm handle on motivation.

"He had an appreciation, an understanding of young people and what their emotions were," said Stewart, who recruited Devine in the early 1990s to sit in the Tigers' locker room and on the bench to fire up Stewart's troops for a tournament. Missouri won.

"He always knew what to say and when," Stewart said.

In 1971, Devine left Missouri to coach the NFL's Green Bay Packers, going 25-27-4 in four seasons there before replacing Hall of Fame coach Ara Parseghian in 1975 at Notre Dame. In five seasons under Devine, the Fighting Irish went 53-16-1, winning three bowl games and the 1977 national title.

In 1992, he returned to Missouri as athletic director and served in the job until retiring in 1994.

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