A new era in Drury athletics began on Nov. 17, when the Lady Panthers basketball team began its inaugural season. The next few months will show the fruits of a year of planning and recruiting. Coach Nyla Milleson brought in 14 highly talented student-athletes, scheduled a challenging season, hired an assistant coach and made all preparations for opening the women's basketball era at Drury. Booster club memberships and ticket sales have been superb. For the team's home opener, some 2,000 fans crowded into Weiser gym. They saw an outstanding game, with Missouri Southern eking out a last-second victory.
In the meantime, the men's team continues to lead the way with a tradition dating back to the turn of the 20th century. A highlight of Drury athletic history continues to be the team's NAIA championship in 1979. But the more recent record is nothing to snub. Since 1980, the team has won 421 games and lost 195. Even after moving into the NCAA, the Panthers have continued to compete at a national level.
That athletic record is a credit to Drury's coaches, including current coach Gary Stanfield and predecessors like Marvin Walker, Edsel Matthews and Bill Harding. Where are those venerable coaches now? Matthews is athletic director for the Springfield R-12 school district. Walker became head basketball coach at East Central College in Union, Mo. before retiring. Bill Harding also is retired, living in Christian County, Mo. In their Drury years, these coaches preached more than athletic excellence; they also emphasized the importance of a diploma. Since 1980, only one senior on the basketball team has not graduated.
At the end of the 1999 season, Matt Miller was named to the GTE Academic All-District VII Team, the only sophomore to be named to the first, second or third team in that category.
Riding the wave of a 22-win, six-loss season, the Panthers competed in the NCAA-II South-Central Regional Tournament, where their aspirations were foiled by Washburn. Matt Miller was selected to the All-Regional Tournament Team. Miller and senior Shaun Bass were selected to the first All-Heartland Conference Team and Bass was named the conference's Player of the Year.