K's Closest Kin: Missouri Coach Quin Snyder
Brand, Avery and Maggette. The great exodus of 1999.
Duke fans watched as one of the best teams to grace the floor of Cameron Indoor Stadium fell apart along with Mike Krzyzewski's fortress that had managed to keep some of college's greats studying in Perkins for an extra year.
However, slipping outside the focus of everyone except the most perceptive Duke fans was the departure of another major member of the team, not to the NBA, but rather to Missouri.
Quin Snyder, a pretty good recruit out of Mercer Island, Wash., spent four years as a Blue Devil playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium and against Louisville in the 1986 National Championship before graduating in 1989. After a brief stint as assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers, he came back to Durham to learn from one of the college game's greats, landing an assistant coaching job under Krzyzewski after completing his J.D. and M.B.A. from Duke in 1995. He held this job from 1995 to 1997 and then succeeded Tommy Amaker as the Blue Devils' associate head coach when the former Duke point guard departed for Seton Hall. In doing so, he instantly became one of the hottest young commodities in college basketball.
"Coach K practically raised me," Snyder said. "I'm where I am today because of the opportunity he gave me."
After two years, he was finally near the top and knew it was time to find the perfect job and to start making a name for himself.
"He has a great talent and amazing passion for the game," Krzyzewski said just before Missouri offered Snyder the job. "In the last year as my associate head coach, he's just assumed more responsibilities. He really loves to teach, and he has great rapport with these kids. He's ready to be a head coach now if someone's smart enough to hire him. I hope they're not. I'd like to keep him. He's ready, no question about that. He'll be an outstanding head coach."
After Duke's 1999 National Championship loss, Snyder got a call from Missouri Tiger's athletic director Michael Alden.
Not a school that carried the same great status in the college basketball world as Duke, but for Snyder it was his first head coaching job, something that at age 32 that left him so shocked all he could say was "Wow!"
Since then he hasn't slowed down.
In his first year, Snyder took the Tigers to an 18-13 record, a No. 8 seed in the South region and a date in the first round of the NCAA tournament with North Carolina, to whom he lost 84-70. He also gathered a few national rookie coach of the year awards-after all, as he and Krzyzewski still joke, it took Snyder eight fewer years than his mentor to reach the NCAAs.
This year, Snyder has his team at 15-8 even with the departure of Kenyon Dooling to the L.A. Clippers. Still, things are not looking too great for the Tigers since a season-ending injury to star player and Big XII leading scorer Kareem Rush.
Still, Snyder's youthfulness coupled with his fiery personality on the sideline may ignite his injured team to a third straight NCAA berth. Both those qualities also make him one of the best recruiters in the country-while at Duke he helped land the current sophomore class, one of the country's best, and even laid the groundwork for Chris Duhon becoming a Blue Devil. He also managed to compile one of the top recruiting classes in the country last year, nabbing Rickey Paulding, Missouri's first McDonald's All-American since the 1980s.
"Coming from a great program like Duke, I know he can really coach," Rush said. "Being so young, I know he can relate to his players. He had a fire in his eyes that he wants to do well down at Missouri. I went along with that. He bought me."
It is his style of coaching that has become so popular with the new generation of college coaches like Matt Doherty, Billy Donovan and Amaker. Unlike his more reserved mentor, he has no problem standing up and yelling from the sidelines if he thinks he needs to.
"[Krzyzewski] really encouraged me to think independently and creatively," Snyder said.
However Snyder may differ slightly from Krzyzewski, he still recognizes how much he learned and how privileged he was to be taught by one of the game's great masters, both on and off the court. At Missouri, Snyder has extended the same type of class that Krzyzewski is known for, and he also cares about his players beyond the court. Snyder once said he was more concerned about his players' exams that week than their upcoming game.
"Quin is a brilliant coach and a good man," Krzyzewski said. "During his time as an undergraduate and also while he was going to graduate school here, he was helpful, and then he was an outstanding assistant. Both [Snyder and Amaker] are very close to my heart, and they're amazing coaches, too."
All this, coupled with the fact he knows how to win, has made Snyder one of the hottest commodities on the college basketball world and one of the most popular people in Missouri.
"Quin Snyder impressed everyone involved with this search over the last several days," Alden said after hiring Snyder. "Last Thursday, we began calling athletic directors, conference commissioners, basketball coaches, television analysts and others for coaching recommendations and Quin's name came up on every list. We feel fortunate that we have been able to attract a coach with such impressive credentials."
Two year later, it looks like Alden made a good choice. With coaching like this, its no wonder Snyder has earned the nickname Mighty Quin.