One of the favorite guys I’ve gotten to know some in 25 years in this business is former Kansas basketball star Ryan Robertson, who was as colorful and articulate as ever when I spoke with him a few weeks ago about the future, or lack thereof, of the Kansas-Mizzou athletics series.
While he had contradicting feelings about whether he’d like to see the series resumed, he noted something fundamental already had changed over the years.
“The thing I’ll miss most about that rivalry is the coaches going at one another,” he said, laughing and adding, “I think Coach (Bill) Self and Coach (Frank) Haith both seem to be likeable and not really mad at each other.”
As opposed to, say, Norm Stewart and Roy Williams.
“Coach Stewart and Coach Williams sort of stirred the pot, right?,” he said. “They both did things to one another, said things that made it fun and added a little sauce to the mix.”
Robertson, who played at Kansas from 1995-99, was part of some extra spice after choosing KU over MU.
When his father, Johnny, approached Stewart at a banquet to thank him for recruiting Ryan, Stewart told him off and evidently suggested Johnny Robertson go home and put on his “blue coat.”
And the rivalry at times was rough on Robertson, who was called “traitor” and plenty worse in games at MU and might be forgiven for mugging and exulting after he scored 17 points and hauled in nine rebounds to finally win in Columbia his senior year.
After the game, he looked up in the stands and saw a banner with his phone number and a suggestion to call it for a good time.
“Call it if you want,” he said then. “Call it to the wee hours of the morning. I’ll be up.”
However conflicted Robertson might be in general over the KU-MU thing, he is clear on some elements of it.
He has “zero hate” for Missouri, and he never had a reconciliation with Stewart but would like to.
“If I walked into a restaurant and saw him, I would love, and I do mean love, to sit and chat with him,” Robertson said. “I don’t know if he would care to, but still, with all that happened, he was a great recruiter, a great coach and, man, I’ve wished him nothing but the best.
“They made it really difficult on me (to) the very last second (in recruiting), and I get the reasons why he got very upset and disappointed. But like I said, I would love to see him in a restaurant and buy him a beer. I have tremendous respect for him.”