- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Quin Snyder grew up a fan of Sonics great Dennis Johnson, a poster of Johnson gracing a bedroom wall in his childhood home in suburban Seattle.
Snyder, who was forced to resign as Missouri's head coach in February 2006, on Wednesday learned he will be replacing the late Johnson as head coach of the NBA Development League's Austin Toros. The 40-year-old Snyder said he has accepted a one-year contract to coach the team in the surging NBA minor league.
"I'm excited, but it is under bad circumstances and my heart goes out to his family," Snyder said of Johnson, who died suddenly at 52 on Feb. 22. "I grew up watching D.J."
Snyder was considered a rising star in the Division I coaching ranks, first as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and later when he was hired as head coach at Missouri. Snyder was 126-91 in seven seasons with the Tigers but only 42-42 in his final three, until he was forced out with two seasons remaining and seven games left in the 2005-06 season. Then-assistant Melvin Watkins finished out the season as coach, and that spring Missouri hired UAB coach Mike Anderson as Snyder's successor.
The tenure of Snyder, who led the Tigers to four NCAA Tournaments and an Elite Eight appearance in 2002, was marred by an NCAA investigation centering on Ricky Clemons. The former Missouri guard claimed he was paid by coaches at the university, and Snyder was named in 17 allegations between 1999 and 2004. Ultimately, Missouri avoided a postseason ban, was placed on three years' probation, and assistant coaches Lane Odom and Tony Harvey lost their jobs. Snyder, who at the time was ordered not to recruit off-campus for a year, reportedly received a buyout of $574,000 at the time of his firing.
Since leaving Missouri, Snyder said he has been traveling mostly and being somewhat nomadic.
"I came to the conclusion after looking at business stuff that I wanted to coach. That's my passion," Snyder said. "I'm excited about this opportunity. I missed the competition, the teaching and the coaching. This is a great opportunity for me."
Snyder said he isn't looking for the Toros job as a steppingstone to the NBA, which is exactly what the D-League is for its players. NBA teams are allowed to populate the D-League with their first and second-year players in the D-League. The 15-team league hopes to one day equal the NBA's 30-team membership.
"Quin has a tremendous upside and I see him one day, if he chooses this route, to be a head coach in the NBA," David Kahn, the former Indiana Pacers general manager who owns and operates the Austin franchise, said. "He's getting a chance to return to the roots of coaching basketball. We may have fewer games than the NBA but we have more practices."
Kahn said the team will be affiliated with the San Antonio Spurs and possibly the Boston Celtics. The Toros had been the affiliate of the Houston Rockets a year ago, Kahn said, but now that the D-League has a new team in the Rio Grande Valley, the Rockets are expected to be linked to it.
The Toros' season opens in November.
"I just want to coach, go to practices and play games. I'm not looking beyond that," Snyder said. "I'm just excited about the present. It's a new beginning for me in a place I really like."
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com