Quin Snyder: D-League All-Star Coach
Quin Snyder has enough hair for all of us. It juts out from his forehead and temples like a peacock’s fan. He’s brimming with confidence.Â You’d expect this from a man with a career winning percetange north of .600. But just a few seasons ago, he was forced into a messy resignation after a couple years of turmoil at the University of Missouri.
Other than hair, he’s also a man of pedigree. Coach Snyder played point forÂ the Blue Devils, assisted Larry Brown’s Clippers, and later served under Mike Krzyskewski at Duke.Â By the time he arrived in Missouri, he was a man of peerless mentors. We can now add Gregg Popovich to that number. Mike Krzyzkewski, Larry Brown, Gregg Popovich. That’s a heady list from whom to learn.
As is often the case with this franchise, it’s not hard to fit Synder into theÂ Spurs story if one simply uses Larry Brown as a point of reference . You could establish six degrees between Larry Brown and the entire Association, so this should notÂ be too difficult. Mike Finger once rehearsed the history this way:
Even though Snyder grew up on the west coast and went to college in the east, he spent his summers living in Kansas at Buford’s house, working the Jayhawks’ summer basketball camps. And eventually, both would get a life-changing moment courtesy of then-KU coach Larry Brown.
In 1989, Buford received a spot on Brown’s staff when he took over the Spurs, a break that would lead to Buford becoming one of the NBA’s most respected general managers. As for Snyder? He married Brown’s daughter.
So with that shared history, Buford was excited last spring when the owner of the NBDL’s Austin Toros told him he was considering Snyder as the team’s new head coach. At the time, the Toros were still only an affiliate of the Spurs, so Buford had no authority to hire his old friend. But based partly on Buford’s recommendation, Snyder got the job, and when the Spurs bought the Toros this summer, Snyder was quickly brought into the franchise’s inner sanctum.
So Snyder is at the helm in Austin. He will coach today’s D-League All-Star game after leading the Toros to a 19-8 midseason record.
The Toros reached out to Snyder after his dissmissal from from Missouri and the unexpected death of then Toros coach Dennis Johnson.Â Unlike Mike Brown, Kevin Pritchard, Danny Ferry, and Sam Presti, the Spurs offered Snyder a second chance, not a head start. The Spurs basketball family is rich with stories of success, but occasionally they throw their banner over those whom were dealt a bad hand along the way. In this case, Snyder is open about his part in letting things get out of control in Missouri. He was a young man at the time, and young men sometimes go running into the fray without knowing who the enemies are and where they might be hiding. But the Spurs organization, and the Toros in particular, were happy to bring him into their family, which may have been unexpected, but it was not entirely novel.
Last season, for example, they embraced Kelvin Sampson after his dissmissal from IU. This caught Henry Abbott’s attention:
Where do you go when you are bought out of your head coaching contract at Indiana University because of alleged recruiting violations?
To hang out with your friend Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News on the appearance of Kelvin Sampson:
Sampson, a friend of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s, has been in town observing the Spurs in games and practices this week. He and Popovich have known each other since serving together on George Karl’s Team USA staff at the 2002 FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis.
“He’s a buddy,” Popovich said. “He’s here and we’re having fun together, and learning from each other. I want him to look at us, and if he’s got a good suggestion, then great.”
Sampson, who was asked to step down at Indiana after the NCAA alleged five major recruiting violations, has an open-ended invitation to stick around with the Spurs for as long as he wants, Popovich said.
I can hear you thinking something like: but wait, the Spurs are the choirboys of the NBA! They are pristine and pure! They always dominate those “good guy” lists. Why would they be hanging around with a coach who is shrouded in ethical questions.
Sampson’s violations at IU flagrantly transgressed NCAA rules, but this was not the case with Snyder. There were accusations and the stink of probation, but the hit that sank his battleship was a general loss of control. It was a “chaotic” situation that culminated in an embarrassing losing skid. The wide-reaching vision of the Spurs for the Toros stretches beyond player prospects. They’ve also identified a top flight coaching prospect who, for this reason or that, missed an opportunity. I suspect that Snyder’s next coaching stop will be on an NBA bench. And I suspect that it’s Pop and Buford’s intention to eventually provide an assistant’s chair for Snyder in San Antonio.