Sources conflict on Snyder’s exit

Monday, February 13, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:57 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sunday was expected to bring a sense of resolution to the four-day saga surrounding recently departed MU basketball coach Quin Snyder. But by the end of the day, little new light had been shed on the state or the future of the MU basketball program.

Three days after the story of Snyder’s resignation broke, and as old news became “official” news, there was still no word from the coach, and a newly formed dissension surrounded the team.

After an extended emergency meeting of the UM System Board of Curators that began Saturday afternoon and concluded around 10 a.m. Sunday, Athletic Director Mike Alden confirmed what most in Columbia already knew: Snyder had stepped down as coach of the men’s basketball team.

Immediately after the meeting, presumably held to finalize a settlement between Snyder and the university, Curator Thomas Atkins confirmed a vote had taken place on the matter. During a press conference moments later, Alden informed the media that an agreement had been reached, though details have not been released.

Alden maintained that, despite the men’s basketball team’s poor performance in recent years — the team went 42-42 under Snyder since reaching the Elite Eight in 2003 — Snyder’s resignation had caught him off guard.

“It was not a directive,” Alden said in response to speculation that Snyder had been pressured into stepping down a day after he told reporters he had no intention of doing so. “We still believe in him,” he said. “It’s just at this point, he’s decided he’s going to move on.”

However, others involved with the program — including multiple players — are not convinced that it was, in fact, Snyder’s decision to move on.

In the minutes after MU’s 74-71 victory over Kansas State at Mizzou Arena on Sunday, various players implied that Snyder had been pushed out by members of the university’s athletic department.

Point guard Jason Horton, asked whether he agreed with Snyder’s decision to step down as coach, remarked that Snyder’s decision was made for him.

“Regardless of what you all were told — I know that he didn’t quit on us,” Horton said. “He’s not that type of person. He doesn’t have that type of character. But he didn’t quit on us. I do know that.

“It’s not our decision (whether or not he stays). And obviously we don’t have any say-so in the decision because the stuff was done behind our — we didn’t know anything about it. But obviously, as players, we don’t get that kind of respect. We don’t have that kind of say-so.

“I feel like it’s a slap in the face,” Horton continued. “I feel like (the Athletic Department) 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.”

While not as direct as Horton, at least three other players, including junior guard Thomas Gardner, suggested that Snyder’s exit might not have been on his own terms.

“It’s a business,” Gardner said. “It’s just like any other job. They felt that his performance wasn’t good enough, and they thought that if we got a change, then maybe things could pick up a little bit.”

Media relations director Chad Moller did not return phone calls Sunday night seeking a reaction to player comments. UM System President Elson Floyd, after agreeing to speak with the Missourian on Sunday morning following the Board of Curators meeting, did not make himself available for comment and did not return repeated phone calls Sunday evening.

Gardner and Horton made news this season when both said they would consider leaving the program if Snyder wasn’t MU’s coach next year. On Sunday, both voiced their intent to remain at MU for the duration of the season, but insisted that they were undecided on whether they would return next year. Gardner is the Big 12 Conference’s scoring leader, averaging just under 20 points per game, while Horton leads the team with four assists per game as a part-time starter.

“It would be selfish for me not to (finish out the season),” Horton said. “And I’m just going to finish out the year and see what’s going on after the season. I’ll weigh my options.”

Right after Sunday’s game, as players made their way through the tunnel leading to the locker room, Alden stood nearby, shaking hands and congratulating players as they walked past. Most players nodded or shook hands with Alden, but as Gardner passed, he conspicuously looked away, avoiding eye contact.

Meanwhile, Snyder has yet to make himself available for comment. Just before noon Sunday, the MU Athletic Department issued a release stating that Snyder would hold a press conference later in the evening to address his departure from the program. The press conference, scheduled to begin between 4 and 5 p.m., would have been the first time Snyder addressed reporters since stepping down. Instead, media relations official Dave Reiter passed out a three-sentence statement indicating that since Snyder had not signed the settlement, it would be inappropriate for him to conduct an interview. The release also deferred all interview requests for Snyder to Columbia lawyer Wally Bley, who did not return repeated calls Sunday evening. Speaking with the Missourian late Saturday night, Bley, who defended former MU guard Ricky Clemons, declined to confirm that he had been retained as Snyder’s counsel in negotiations with the university.

Besides the closure of negotiations between Snyder and the university, little else had been settled Sunday evening.

— Emem Offong contributed to this report.

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