Monday, February 13, 2006

Players defend Snyder

Quin not talking; Tigers say he 'didn't quit'


— Missouri players are adamant: Quin Snyder did not bail out on them.

"I know he didn't quit," point guard Jason Horton said Sunday. "I know he's not that type of person. I know that."

Snyder's resignation was made official Sunday morning, and the Tigers played their first game without him later in the day, beating Kansas State, 74-71, to end a six-game losing streak. Snyder still hasn't talked publicly about his departure after nearly seven seasons at the school.

He canceled a scheduled news conference early Sunday evening, instead issuing a statement through his lawyer that he wouldn't be talking until he and the university have a signed settlement agreement for the final two years of his contract.

In any case, players who spoke for the first time since Snyder became their former coach Friday are certain leaving was not his idea and that he was forced out.

"I don't know exactly what happened," sophomore forward Marshall Brown said. "All I can tell you is that's not in coach Q's character."

Junior guard Thomas Gardner was cautious about getting into a discussion about whether the 39-year-old Snyder was fired or resigned.

"I'm going to leave that up to the athletic department," Gardner said. "I still go to the school here and I still play for the university. Everybody has their opinion."

Still, players seemed to be adopting an us-against-the-administration mentality. When Snyder informed the team he would not finish the season, it was a harsh reminder that college basketball is big business.

"He was just telling us about life, that things sometimes ain't going to go your way and sometimes the outcome isn't what you wanted," senior guard Jimmy McKinney said. "It's true, it's life, it's reality."

By all accounts, Snyder's decision to step down was a surprise to everyone. A day earlier, the coach had said he would finish the season.

"It's been a real tough 48 hours for us," Brown said. "We didn't really know how to react. We got together and decided we've just got to stay together and make the best of the situation."

Horton said the move made him feel as if the school had given up on the season. Missouri is 11-11 overall and 4-7 in the Big 12.

"I think it's a smack in the face to us," Horton said. "I feel like they basically tried to pull the plug on our season, but we're not going to let that happen.

"We're going to keep playing hard and playing together."

Melvin Watkins will coach the team the rest of the season and players said they'd rally around him, and Snyder.

"I'm going to play hard for Coach Melvin like it's Coach Q," Horton said. "But it's tough, it's definitely an adjustment we've got to make."

Brown said the absence of Snyder spurred him to play harder. He responded with perhaps his best all-around game with 18 points, four assists and four rebounds and only one turnover.

"If anything it helped us focus more because we came together," Brown said. "I played with a chip on my shoulder today knowing the head guy wasn't going to be there."

Down the road the adjustment could mean a move to another school for some players. Most indicated they'd concentrate on finishing strong before considering their futures.

"It's a big impact just because I didn't want to play for any other coach," said Gardner, who led the Big 12 with a 20-point average. "Right now I'm going to finish the season out and at the end of the season wait and see who's interested in the coaching job and make my decision from there."

First things first for Brown, who noted there are five regular-season games remaining plus the Big 12 tournament. Missouri's next game is Saturday at Kansas.

"I'm definitely going to re-evaluate the situation but that's at the end of the season," Brown said. "Right now I'm not really worried about what's going to happen, I'm just going to focus on trying to win these ballgames and see what happens."

Members of the school's all-century team, which was honored at halftime, can only hope for better days ahead.

"I'm a fan, I want to see us do well," said Norm Stewart, Snyder's predecessor. "I don't care if it's hopscotch."

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