Up-and-down tenure at Mizzou ends for Snyder
The can't-miss coach has missed.
Quin Snyder, who seemed so right for college coaching when he was seated at the right hand of Mike Krzyzewski, has completed an oh-so-wrong tenure at the University of Missouri. With his program in tatters, his reputation sullied and his team quitting around him, Snyder is out as coach of the Tigers.
Just because you played at Duke, coached at Duke and, at least theoretically, learned the rules at Duke, that doesn't mean you can deliver Duke on demand outside the Shangri-La of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Snyder brought his shimmering pedigree, articulate persona, impressive recruiting résumé and excessively styled hair to Missouri -- and completely bombed.
His departure is about a year late, in the opinion of this Mizzou graduate (class of '87). The school should have fired him after the 2004-05 season, when the Tigers went on a three-year NCAA probation for rules violations and proceeded to underachieve yet again on the court. It would have fired him this March, if Snyder had given athletic director Mike Alden the chance, but shame on Missouri for waiting until a complete competitive collapse forced the situation.
The residue of major rule-breaking in the early 1990s under Norm Stewart should have made the transgressions under Snyder a fireable offense. After all, part of the attraction to Snyder had been the Duke reputation for doing things the right way.
The NCAA found that Missouri's violations occurred from Snyder's first season, 1999, through 2003 -- not exactly an isolated incident -- and it was not a shock to those who follow recruiting closely. There was smoke surrounding Snyder and his staff the whole time.
The Tigers were surprisingly spared a postseason ban, getting away with severe recruiting restrictions and a scholarship reduction. But the probation should have been enough for a clean break, after Snyder's fifth year.
That would have prevented the toxic atmosphere of this season.
It was bad when Mizzou lost its season opener to Sam Houston. It was very bad when Mizzou lost to Davidson. It was disastrous when Mizzou lost by 32 to Illinois in St. Louis, and a Missouri fan dumped a bucket of popcorn on Snyder's famous curls as he left the floor. It was deathly when fans stayed away by the thousands from shiny new Mizzou Arena.
Somehow, it got worse.
Rock bottom arrived this week, when Missouri (10-11, 3-7 in the Big 12) was humiliated by a Baylor team that hadn't even played a game until January. It was the Tigers' sixth straight loss, all by double figures, and it clearly showed that Snyder had quit coaching or his players had quit listening or some combination of the two.
It has been a stunning fall from grace.
Snyder was arguably the hottest assistant coach in the country when Missouri snagged him to replace irascible legend Stewart. He was a popular hire (I was wholeheartedly in favor) and immediately won over fans and big-time recruits with his personality.
The recruiting successes set the bar extremely high, igniting hope that the Tigers would soon be looking ancient nemeisis Kansas in the eye once more. The early returns were decent, buoyed more by the promise of bigger things to come.
Snyder remained a hot commodity on the job market for a few years, even after turning in middling early results at Missouri. Washington pursued him for its job in 2002 and Snyder thought hard about returning to his home state before turning it down. (It was a great miss for the Huskies, who hired Lorenzo Romar and earned a No. 1 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament.)
But as the players went through the program, the results never matched the recruiting hype. Potential turned into disappointment. Snyder never finished better than tied for fifth in the Big 12, never lost fewer than 11 games in a season and never convinced anyone that the program had gained truly substantial momentum on his watch.
There was a single memorable NCAA Tournament run, to the regional final in 2002, but that was from a team that had massively underachieved all season. There was a single memorable Big 12 tournament run, to the final in 2003, but that was from a team that stumbled into the tourney without a sure NCAA bid.
It's impossible to foresee this Missouri team making a memorable run of any kind. But maybe, without the cloud of Snyder's job status hanging over the team, the Tigers can at least relocate their pride and play hard the rest of the way.
And Snyder can try to relocate the luster that once accompanied his coaching career.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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