Whether Norm Stewart can return this season to his third-ranked Missouri team remained unknown today as the 53-year-old coach began recovering from cancer surgery.

The beleaguered Tigers, 21-5, meanwhile, were given a day off following their 82-75 loss Tuesday night to Iowa State, their second setback in three games since Stewart fell ill.Just hours before the game, the team learned doctors on Tuesday morning removed a cancerous tumor from Stewart's colon and took out his diseased gall bladder.

"The doctors said they cleaned (the cancer) all out," said Bob Sundvold, an assistant basketball coach who was suspended with pay last week by the school while it investigates his involvement in alleged NCAA violations.

Hospital officials said Stewart was in satisfactory condition and would be hospitalized at least a week.

"During the evaluation of the source of the gasto-intestinal bleeding, it was found that Norm Stewart was suffering from gall bladder disease and cancer of the colon," a hospital news release said.

"Surgery was performed this morning to remove both the cancerous tumor and the diseased gall bladder. The surgery was successful and Coach Stewart tolerated the procedure well.

"He is currently in satisfactory condition and treatment for his ulcer disease continues. He will remain hospitalized for at least one week."

Stewart collapsed last Thursday, one day after Sundvold was suspended pending an investigation of possible NCAA violations. Stewart had been hospitalized with what doctors said were bleeding ulcers.

The team continued under the direction of Rich Daly, Stewart's recruiting specialist and the only fulltime assistant left.

According to Sundvold, Stewart showed signs of not feeling well as early as last summer. Sundvold said Stewart complained of dizziness last summer on the golf course and had to quit after eight holes. He also said Stewart fell down in the locker room before a game earlier this season.

The NCAA had said it would await an internal investigation by the school, but has since been observed conducting interviews in the case.

The NCAA probe and Stewart's illness are only the latest in a string of setbacks and controversies overshadowing what many believe is the best team in Stewart's 22 years as Missouri coach.

His wife, Virginia Stewart, has undergone two major operations this month and was hospitalized last Thursday when Stewart fell ill. A spokeswoman said Tuesday she had been released.

Earlier in the season Stewart got into a bitter controversy with a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter over remarks which the reporter construed as threatening to his 1-year-old son. Fans at Nebraska became incensed on Jan. 28 when they said Stewart turned to them during a game and insulted Husker coach Danny Nee.

The Big Eight Conference spent Tuesday checking with the NCAA about an emergency fill-in coach to assist Daly.