He isn’t blind, and he isn’t deaf.
Although Missouri coach Quin Snyder said he doesn’t pay attention to the fans falling off the Tigers’ bandwagon or the critics assessing blame, he knows they are out there.
Avenging an earlier Big 12 Conference loss against Colorado with Tuesday’s 77-65 win might have slowed some of the Tigers’ fleeing fans, but it didn’t change Snyder’s perspective.
“I don’t think our focus the whole year has been on what’s in front of us and what we can control,” Snyder said. “This has been a challenging season, no question, but it’s not over by any means. We’re halfway through the league. There’s a lot that’s yet to be written.”
He is right. There is space in this season’s saga for another chapter. After all, the Tigers (10-10, 5-5 Big 12) have seven games left before the conference tournament, and anything can happen.
Snyder started the latest section with an unusual approach to provoke a turning point.
With the Tigers reeling from an embarrassing loss to Nebraska that sent them below .500 for the first time in Snyder’s five years, Snyder held an unconventional pregame practice an hour before the Tigers faced the Buffaloes.
Those last-minute drills provoked a defensive energy the Tigers had not shown all season, and they claimed 14 steals.
“I want them to be energetic and excited. Sometimes when things aren’t necessarily going your way, it’s harder to have enthusiasm,” Snyder said. “That’s just critical for these. Some guys need it more than others. Some guys can play maybe without emotion and be kind of killers.
“By and large, most of our players, I think, need to be emotional to play their best ball.
“I just want to make sure that we’re getting that type of approach. Every point that I can touch them, I’m going to try and touch them.”
The Tigers’ success hinges on drawing that energy from every player, whether he is on the court or on the bench, for every game, Snyder said.
“We need everybody,” he said. “Nobody can have an off night energy-wise. You can’t control everything, but we’ve absolutely got to control the things we can.”
The players are buying Snyder’s teaching. Despite the criticism that surrounds Snyder’s coaching philosophies, senior star Rickey Paulding said he has every team member’s trust.
“That’s just coach. He’s just trying to be a good coach and trying to help us out,” Paulding said. “He’s doing whatever he can to get us motivated and give us energy. That’s what he did tonight. It definitely helped.”
When Snyder signed a five-year contract in April 1999, the expectations started mounting. The criticisms have been rising since.
When one reporter questioned the “fire” Snyder was getting from his post players after the Tigers dismantled Iowa on Jan. 3, Snyder’s reaction said everything about the heat he is feeling this year. There has been the letdown of his worst record at Missouri and an ongoing NCAA investigation hanging over his head.
“I thought you said, ‘Is there any question I’m getting fired?’” Snyder said. “I haven’t listened to the radio much lately, but I didn’t hear that. What was the question again?”
An 82-68 loss to Syracuse on Jan. 12 marked a 3-6 skid for the Tigers and the inescapable birth of www.firequinsnyder.com.
The Web site’s anonymous creator posts regularly under the screen name Quinmustgo.
If Snyder hasn’t peeked at this site, he might never get the chance. Fortunately for Snyder, the site’s creator posted a message Wednesday that the site is at risk to be shut down without a legitimate name registered as the creator.
Snyder is no stranger to scrutiny. He said tough times aren’t a scarcity among highly touted teams.
“It’s not uncommon, and it’s not unique to our team,” he said. “We get a lot of publicity about it, but we actually do coach them.”
Snyder said the Tigers show up for practice every day possessed with focus, an intensity the Tigers have missed in each of their 10 losses.
Adding players and losing players, missed practice time with a tough road schedule early in the season and challenging nonconference opponents stunted the team’s cohesion, Snyder said.
“I think we’ve had a lot of change this year, even with what I think a lot of people expected our team to look like,” Snyder said. “I felt like we’re getting through that a little bit. It shows up in terms of a slow start or a turnover or a lapse on defense because we’re not dialed into what we need to be.
“Does everybody come to work every day and just knock the ball out of the park? I think some of it’s human nature when you see teams let up and let down.”
Senior power forward Travon Bryant said Snyder can only control so much as a coach. After that, it’s up to the players, he said. Despite the frustration he has felt in his last year as a Tiger, Bryant has confidence Snyder is doing his job.
“Coach always stresses that: Control the things that you can control,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to go out there and give your best effort, whatever the consequence is. If you give your best effort, mostly good things will come out of it, so when you get frustrated you just have to hold your emotions in but sometimes it gets really frustrating to see you doing the right thing and getting no reward.”
Despite the fan chat-room banter and sighs on press row, Snyder said his time with the Tigers is nowhere near over.
“I have a great deal of pride in the character of our kids and our program,” Snyder said. “When we play in a way that I don’t think is emblematic of that, it makes you upset. You do what you need to do as a coach. We’ve been tough on them this year.
“You can tap into me for a while, but it’s got to come from everybody. It’s got to come from everybody on our team.”