When it comes to delivering “bad news” in sports, generally, it’s a local team losing or a coach getting fired. But Sunday it comes in a more melancholy form – saying goodbye to a Missouri State legend.
Bill Thomas, the man who molded the landscape of Bears basketball for nearly three decades as a player, assistant, and head coach passed away Saturday. As a 3-year starter, Thomas helped the maroon and white win back-to-back NAIA National Championships in 1952 and ’53.
He returned to Springfield as an assistant coach in 1956, and three years later, MSU finished runner-up in the NCAA Division 2 National Championship.
Thomas took over the helm in 1964 and coached MO-State for 16 years. He compiled a record of 265 wins to 158 losses, and his teams won or tied for the conference championship in five consecutive years from 1966-70.
The Bears finished second in the D2 national tournament three different times. Bill Thomas was 91 years old.
Springfield Mayor Ken McClure released a statement on Sunday, expressing his condolences.
“Bill Thomas helped make the Missouri State basketball program the success that it is,” Mayor McClure said. “He continued to support the Bears and keep in touch with players over many years. It is a sad day, losing this legend.”