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The story behind the Clemons incident


by Ray Speckman
Contributing writer

Looking down on Norm Stewart Court at the Hearnes Field House before Tuesday’s game with Iowa State, a vision came back. The Tigers used to have their bench just in front of where the Norm Stewart Court is written into the hardwood on the west end. I thought I had recalled it correctly. Why now, I wondered out loud, is the visiting team sitting on the west side of the court instead of the Tigers. My question was answered.

“Two years ago when the court was dedicated to Norm,” the friendly scribe in the press box told me, “was when the Tigers shifted ends.” The next question is “Why?” The consensus answer was Dollar Bill Laurie. You see it was Laurie, the “anonymous one,” who was contemplating, at that time, a $25 million donation to jump-start the new, yet unnamed arena. Laurie, who showed more ability in choosing a wife than he did on the basketball court, still smarts from being snubbed at MU and had to take his basketball talents to Memphis, but his pocket book wife he found in Bentonville, Arkansas.

"Does Missouri have any spine at all,” another scribe to my left asked”? “Sure they have spine,” someone said, and the marrow is all green…that is green as in greenbacks.

Ricky Clemons returned to the Tiger lineup Tuesday night after being suspended for the Oklahoma State blowout of Missouri on Saturday night. Clemons was accused by a “female-friend” (is that an oxy moron?) of restraining her. I thought it might be interesting to see just what the Media Relations Department for the Tigers had to say about the sequence of events that created a whirlwind of activity at the Hearnes Center after the alleged occurrence Thursday evening.

According to Chad Moller, director and his assistant, Sam Fluery, his able assistant in charge of basketball PR, here is basically what occurred.

*The offense was allegedly committed Thursday evening between 9 and 10 p.m.

*The next day, Friday, Clemons was practicing with the Tigers as usual in a workout that would precede their 8 p.m. departure on a chartered flight to Stillwater to play the Cowboys the next afternoon.

*Around 3 p.m., as the practice was winding down Fluery got a call from Rod Smith, Sports Director of KRCG-TV in Jefferson City. The call said Clemons was in trouble with the Columbia, Missouri police and wanted to know if Fluery had any information.

*Fluery, according to Moller, was “blindsided.” No one had a clue or an inkling that over 17 hours previously the alleged occurrence occurred.

*Fluery huddled with Moller as well as with Athletic Director Mike Alden, Coach Quin Snyder and their staff. The phone calls went out as each tried to find out what the “heck is going on.”

*About the same time the athletic department got a call from the Columbia police that they wanted Clemons to come to the police station. The exact nature of what was explained in that call is uncertain.

*“This situation was very unique,” explained Moller, “for the team and Sam were getting ready to go to the airport to leave for Stillwater and all of a sudden this problem was here for us to determine what was going on. There was very little time and although all of us had been on the phones trying to find out what was going on, we didn’t have enough information to really know.”

*After gathering as many facts as they could, the “Senior Basketball Management Team” (Alden, Snyder, Moller and their staffs), gave the information to Coach Snyder who made the decision to not allow Clemons to make the Stillwater trip. His boss, AD Alden, backed Snyder’s decision.

*”Our phones were ringing off the hook by this time,” said Moller, “fans and press were getting wind of what was going on and they wanted explanations.”

*Snyder ‘scribbled’ out an explanation on notepaper that we were to work over. We did that, passed it between Alden and Snyder and their staffs and released the information that Ricky had been suspended for the Saturday afternoon game.

*"Whew!!!!,” according to Moller, the phones kept ringing. “We were bombarded with calls.

*Fluery, in his third year with the PR arm of MU and his first on the job as head of the basketball PR, had his first firestorm to deal with.

*Did Fluery panic, Moller was asked? “No, not at all. You have to remember that we have over 200 young student athletes and kids have problems, not just athletes.”
*Star columnist Jason Whitlock wrote in his piece on Tuesday that MU had done Clemons a disservice by reinstating him. When prodded, Moller said, “to the best of my knowledge Jason did not talk to anyone on the Sports Information staff before he wrote that column. But,” he reminded, “Jason is a columnist, not a reporter.”

*Fluery, back to the more normal things of taking care of the media during the Iowa State game, paused for a second saying, “I must have received over 200 calls on the Clemons thing. My phone rang off the hook and was buzzing in my pocket. I didn’t start out counting calls but it had to be 200. I did count between 8:30 and 10 a.m. on Sunday and I had 37 calls during that period on my cell phone alone.

*So much for the busy life of a sports information guy during a hectic weekend at MU.

So now, what about the Iowa State game? Let it best be said that a very exciting, very physical Cyclones team gave the Tigers all they wanted before Mizzou prevailed 64-59. Reinstated, Clemons started and played 39 minutes during the game and had a poor shooting night (“He tried too many circus shots early on,”) but finished strong with 15 points and a good floor game.

Arthur Johnson had another double/double with 21 points and 11 rebounds and was the favorite of the 11,627 fans who attended.

Missouri (now 2-1 in Big XII play and 11-3 overall), travels to Texas to play the number 4 ranked Longhorns on Saturday.