Ex-Toros coach Sny­der likes life out of spot­light’s glare

Af­ter Miz­zou mess, time in Austin, he joins NBA’s 76ers

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTSBRIEFING - STEVE KEL­LEY | THE SEAT­TLE TIMES

PHILADEL­PHIA — The fu­ture spread in front of Quin Sny­der like a sprawl­ing, con­quer­able plain. At 32 he was a prodigy. Col­lege bas­ket­ball’s next big thing. Tele­genic, charis­matic, he was a nat­u­ral.

He was a tire­less worker, with a Duke pedi­gree, and hir­ing him to his first head­coach­ing job at Mis­souri, pass­ing on Bill Self and John Cali­pari, seemed like a bold and bril­liant move.

Sny­der was smart and slick in a good way. He had a law de­gree, an MBA. He knew how to work a room.

And Sny­der wore his pas­sion on his sweats. He be­lieved in bas­ket­ball. He was most com­fort­able in the gym. He loved coach­ing. He loved coun­sel­ing. He loved win­ning. And, on some level, he even en­joyed the agony of de­feat.

Sny­der was the can’t-miss kid. In 1999, he suc­ceeded Miz­zou’s fa­vorite son, Norm Ste­wart, and be­came the coach in the fish­bowl in Mis­souri.

Then for the next seven years he tried to do the im­pos­si­ble. He tried to be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­body.

“I re­al­ize that I’ve led a very pub­lic life,” Sny­der — the for­mer head coach of the NBA’s D-League’s Austin Toros who re­cently be­came a mem­ber of new Philadel­phia 76ers coach Doug Collins’ staff — said this week. “But it’s not some­thing that I’ve ever re­ally wanted.

“I re­al­ize it’s part of the pro­fes­sion, but it’s not some­thing that’s to my lik­ing. There’s no ques­tion that I didn’t want to put my life on dis­play.”

For Sny­der, Mis­souri was seven years of se­vere tur­bu­lence. No mat­ter what he did, he couldn’t re­place Ste­wart in the eyes of the boost­ers. No mat­ter how hard he tried, he couldn’t avoid the spot­light.

Sny­der took his first four Mis­souri teams to the NCAA tour­na­ment. He went to the Elite Eight in 2002, but even­tu­ally things spi­raled out of con­trol. And his fall from grace was pre­cip­i­tous.

He made poor de­ci­sions. His pro­gram came un­der NCAA scru­tiny. He was named in 17 NCAA al­le­ga­tions be­tween 1999 and 2004. The pro­gram was im­plod­ing and so was Sny­der.

Fi­nally, dur­ing a six-game los­ing streak in 2006, Sny­der was fired. The uni­ver­sity said he re­signed, but Sny­der says: “There is no doubt I was fired. I don’t even like the idea of re­sign­ing. It’s like quit­ting. I al­ways re­mind my­self that I got fired. It’s very free­ing.”

At the same time, Sny­der went through a very pub­lic divorce and slid slowly into de­pres­sion.

He had to es­cape the spot­light, the ap­pear­ances on “Sport­sCen­ter,” the sold-out crowds and the hot-house hoops and re­dis­cover what was im­por­tant in his life.

Af­ter he was fired from Mis­souri, he spent 16 months prac­ti­cally un­der­ground, out of touch, out of sight, out of mind. He lived with Collins for a while. He spent time in Costa Rica. He lived in North Carolina.

“I didn’t like where I was, but I also didn’t feel some sort of de­sire to re­pent,” he said. “You go from be­ing very suc­cess­ful and, in a very fun­da­men­tal way, from be­ing very good, to be­ing bad, and you feel like it’s all gone.

“Now, not only have you failed in your pro­fes­sion at some level, but you’re also a bad per­son. You know it’s not true. You know it’s bull, but it’s a very real thing.”

Sny­der se­ri­ously con­sid­ered get­ting out of bas­ket­ball. Friends coun­seled him to use his law de­gree, he said, to “get off the hoop horse.”

But, as he planned his fu­ture, Sny­der kept com­ing back to bas­ket­ball. He didn’t miss the at­ten­tion, but he still wanted the gym, still loved the cul­ture of coach­ing.

Sny­der wanted the gym with­out the boost­ers. He wanted hoops with­out hoopla.

Three years ago, he resur­faced in bas­ket­ball’s back­wa­ter, coach­ing the Toros. He took the eight-hour bus rides. He coached in empty are­nas in places like Bak­ers­field and Bis­marck.

In his three years there, the Toros won more games than any D-League team. And Sny­der sent more play­ers to the NBA than any other coach.

“I had more con­trol over my life,” Sny­der said of his time in Austin. “No one knows what I did there. No one cares that we won more games than any­body else. But I don’t care that no one knows it. For me, it’s some­thing to hold on to.”

Far from the buzz of the game, Sny­der, 44, re­dis­cov­ered his bas­ket­ball bliss in Austin.

“It was a grad­ual thing. It was or­ganic,” he said. “You’re off the radar. Peo­ple don’t see your name or your face. And I think that sep­a­ra­tion pro­vided more clar­ity for me. Now I have a lot more con­trol over my life with what I’m do­ing now. And I feel more at peace with what I’m do­ing now.”

He says he is Collins’ fourth as­sis­tant, still in the game but out of the pub­lic glare. It is part of his slow re-emer­gence.

“The biggest thing for me now,” he said, “is to be around peo­ple who know me and I trust and I en­joy be­ing around. Peo­ple use the word re­demp­tion, but I just went back to what I know.”

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