Amid pivotal K-State hoops win, Snyder family’s agony looms large in Weber’s thoughts

Coach Bruce Weber’s K-State basketball team came up with a big win over No. 24 TCU on Saturday, but there was still a touch of sadness lingering at Bramlage Coliseum.
Coach Bruce Weber’s K-State basketball team came up with a big win over No. 24 TCU on Saturday, but there was still a touch of sadness lingering at Bramlage Coliseum. The Associated Press

In what might be considered a perception-enhancing win — at least in the moment — Kansas State fended off No. 24 Texas Christian 73-68 on Saturday in a crackling atmosphere at Bramlage Coliseum.

This was a substantial win on many levels:

The sequel to last week’s 87-69 romp over fourth-ranked Oklahoma all at once lifted the Wildcats (14-5 overall, 4-3 Big 12) into a tie for third place in the gnarly Big 12, marked the first time in three years they’d beaten ranked teams in back-to-back games and hinted at some consistency taking hold here that has been absent in coach Bruce Weber’s six seasons.

The last two seasons, after all, K-State beat a top-five team and commenced to lose five of six.

This time, they accelerated out of a big win into another.

For all that the game might have implied, though, a certain heaviness lingered here, too.

Weber’s elation in the moment was tempered by the tragedy in the first family of Manhattan, where Bill Snyder Family Stadium stands adjacent to Bramlage, where Bill Snyder normally would have attended the basketball game during a football recruiting weekend.

The game had begun with a moment of silence in this “period of mourning” for the Snyder family, including the legendary K-State football coach and his son and assistant, Sean — whose 22-year-old son, Matthew, died on Wednesday in what authorities referred to as an “unattended death” and was being investigated as a suicide.

And as the day came to a close near the end of his news conference, Weber turned his attention that way without having yet been asked about it.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Snyder family: So sad,” said Weber, who had been thinking about the Snyders during a walk before the game. “I lost a sister at 21 years old (in a car accident), and I know how it affected my mom and dad for a long time.

“There’s no greater pain than to see your child die.”

As he spoke in a hallway later, Weber thought of nearby assistant coach Chris Lowery, whose 15-year-old son Kahari died in 2016 after a lifetime of devastating health issues while inspiring in his parents a deeper sense of meaning to life.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” Weber said, “and I just never wish that on anyone to have to live through that.”

Weber’s right when he says no words can heal this agony.

But it’s also true that conveying love and support can help in some small way even without knowing how to say it.

That’s what athletic director Gene Taylor has felt already happening in a community that also respects privacy, and he expects the sentiments will be further demonstrated in services for Matt Snyder at 10 a.m. Thursday at Manhattan’s First United Methodist Church.

“You hope the church is big enough, really,” he said. “I don’t know if we have room.”

Between now and then, Taylor says his department is trying to give the family space while also staying available for anything that might be done on its behalf.

“Just be there. You can’t say words that are ever going to make it easier on them. There just aren’t any,” Taylor said, adding that the sentiment on the coaching staff is to “let Sean grieve and once the funeral is over to surround him and try to help him and make sure he’s staying busy.”

As best they can, Taylor said, they’ll hope they can help Sean one day somehow achieve some sense of normalcy.

But Taylor also knows this is a life-altering event for a family that’s revered here beyond the impact in football that has stirred the community and institution.

Perhaps the essence of that could be found in an exchange he had with Sean Snyder.

After Taylor sent a text expressing condolences and his prayers, he said, Snyder texted back, “ ‘Thank you, but please keep Matt in your prayers, too.’

“That’s a pretty powerful statement.”

That’s why on a big day for K-State basketball, even the men it meant the most to, and all those who shared in the pregame silence, had that on their minds.

Time enough to see what this game means for Wildcat basketball, a team that seems to be maturing, plays well together, defends and, in Weber’s words, is learning to master fear.

In the moment, though, there are more important things to pause and consider in a K-State community that cherishes the Snyders and knows nothing will ever be the same for them.

Matthew Snyder, the grandson of Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder and son of K-State special teams coordinator Sean Snyder, died Wednesday in Manhattan.

Vahe Gregorian is a sports columnist at The Kansas City Star: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian