The Austin Toros should look more like the Spurs than ever


The Austin Toros are thought of by many as the NBA D-League’s flagship program. They are consistently a top team in the D-League standings and enjoy one of the strongest relationships between parent program and affiliate.

And then this summer, they went and improved things some more.

Gone are the Toros from the Austin Convention Center. Now the Toros play in the fancy Cedar Park Center, a 6800 set arena in the Cedar Park suburb of Austin. Away from the gargantuan shadow of the University of Texas and into the neighborhoods the Toros primarily market to.

As a result, the Toros also left the Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center on the east side of Austin, where the team used to practice. Now the Toros use the Cedar Park Recreation Center, a facility closer to the team’s new home.

Quin Snyder is gone too. The former head coach of the Toros joined Doug Collins’ staff with the Philadelphia 76ers. Brad Jones, formerly the head coach of the D-League’s Utah Flash, is the new head coach and he’s excited about the job.

“I felt like this was one of the best organizations in the league, in the D-League,” Coach Jones said at the Toros’ media day on Tuesday. “And since I’ve been here, probably seven weeks now, it’s proven out to be that, plus some.”

Last season, Coach Snyder mentioned after a game that he liked to play at a fast pace in the D-League, because it was easier to get guys to buy into the team concept when everyone knew they were going to put up good numbers.

“I think they averaged like 113 points a game last year,” Coach Jones said. “I don’t know if we’ll average that. We’re definitely going to play an up-tempo pace. But at the same time we’re going to play hopefully where the ball’s moving, guys get a lot of touches and — like I told these guys — so guys can show their talent and what they can do within the framework of our team system.”

This year’s version of the Toros should look and play a lot like the big club in San Antonio. Chatting with assistant coaches Tyler Jenkins and Alex Lloyd, they mentioned that last year they had a much more experimental playbook. Presumably with Coach Snyder in his third season coaching the team, he had a grasp on the San Antonio system.

But with a new head coach, the playbook has been pared down to the basics of the Spurs system. For example, where every offensive play the Spurs run in San Antonio has a first, second, third, and sometimes a fourth, option. The Toros playbook may only include the first two options for each play. The system in Austin is enough so that if a player were to be called-up to San Antonio, he would at least have a basic grasp on the system and wouldn’t be lost.

With the team’s first game of the season tonight against the Maine Red Claws in Portland, ME, it’ll be interesting to see how much this year’s team has absorbed of the system.

Some other notes from Toros media day:

  • I talked to Marcus Cousin for a few minutes about going to training camp with the Spurs. I attempted to get him to tell me all the dirty big man tricks that Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess taught him. He tried to tell me there’s no such things, but I don’t believe him.
  • The NBA uses the D-League as a way to experiment and test new ideas. I was curious if the Spurs did the same thing and tested out new ideas in Austin, in terms of plays, defense, etc. and I asked Coach Jones about it. He told me that he hadn’t been on the job long enough for those requests to really be passed to him yet, but did say that the Spurs have the Toros testing a new sports nutrition and sports medicine plan that’s a bit of a secret. If I can learn any more about this and pass it along, I will.
  • Wes

    This is great! I was the videographer for the Toros during their inaugural season (and for several games the 2nd season) and I can attest first hand that the org was not very good, surely some bad stories, but I’m glad they’re getting it together and are out of the Convention Center. Very cool.

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  • rob

    “but did say that the Spurs have the Toros testing a new sports nutrition and sports medicine plan that’s a bit of a secret.”

    Steroids? Just kidding.

    That would be an interesting follow up. Hope to see it some time in the future.

    If Parker, Manu and Duncan have been following this “secret” formula…it’s proven wonders so far this year. They are all playing like they’re 3 to 4 years younger when the Spurs were winning championships.

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