Newport’s father-son duo prefers substance over style

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Newport boys basketball coach Rod Snapp doesn’t patrol the sidelines in a $1,295 burgundy Fiore dinner jacket by Sebastian Cruz.

His son, assistant Ethan Snapp, doesn’t plead with referees in a $3,995 Bruno Cuccinelli single-breasted two-piece suit.

No, the Snapps and their assistants will likely be more casually attired – like the gray heather t-shirts with “Make ‘Em Believe” they wore in the Ninth Region tournament two weeks ago – when they lead the 28-6 Wildcats into the UK HealthCare Boys’ Basketball Sweet 16® Tournament against Lyon County at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Rupp Arena.

Which is just fine with Snapp the elder.

“I like our t-shirt and shoes look,” Rod Snapp said. “We wear different t-shirts, different colors. We all match; we wear the same color shoes, the same color t-shirts. We want to be comfortable. 

“The coaches have changed their look; they don’t wear shirts and ties anymore. Some people don’t like it, I don’t think, but I hear a lot more like it than don’t.”

You might notice two other things: both Snapps vociferously sprinting down Newport’s sideline, begging officials for a favorable call; and Rod chewing on a towel, grabbing his head, or pulling his pants up to his belly button.

“As a competitor, you see all his antics on the sidelines,” Ethan said. “He’s jumping up and down and running and barking … It’s just easier as a player to play for someone like that.

“I know it seems he’s losing his mind over there on the sideline, but he’s really encouraging, he always has good things to say. He’s teaching, and he cares.”

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The Snapps – especially Rod – learned to be fiery from the family patriarch, Rod’s father Jerry Snapp. 

“Each team takes its own personality a little bit, I think,” Jerry Snapp said. “Some don’t respond. I know Rod really loves this team.” 

Ethan Snapp is completing his third season as an assistant. He graduated from Newport in 2016, and his 1,722 career points are fifth in school history. 

And yes, Ethan was treated differently than the rest of the team.

“I definitely 100% treated Ethan maybe a little tougher than others,” Rod said. “I made sure that I challenged him a little bit more so other kids would see that.” 

After high school, Ethan played three years at Urbana (Ohio) University, which closed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and declining enrollment, and finished at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg near the Tennessee border.

Rod Snapp is completing his 13th season at Newport after assistant jobs at Milan (Indiana) and Dixie Heights. His high school and collegiate career paths were as circuitous as Nathan’s – several high schools before graduating from Sullivan (Indiana) in 1988, a couple of seasons at long-closed Sue Bennett College in London, Kentucky, and two more at Indiana University-South Bend.

The Snapps stayed at Newport because people there treated them well and Rod wanted to settle down.

“I went to three different high schools in four years,” Rod said. “I didn’t want to do that to my family”

Coaching basketball in 2023 is nothing like the 1980’s – you have to tailor your approach to each player and tell them why something works and hope they buy in instead of simply having them run up the bleachers if they make a mistake; Rod Snapp said it’s like running a small business.

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“Now, you’ve got to be selective on how you handle kids,” he said. “You have to deal with not just coaching. You’re a counselor, you’re a teacher … There’s so much that’s involved other than just showing up and coaching basketball.”

Lyon County (30-5) brings junior guard Travis Perry; his 32.2 points a game were second in the state to Holy Cross’ Jacob Meyer’s 36.8. Junior Jack Reddick is next with 19 points, and junior Brady Shoulders is next at 18.1 points and a team-high 11.1 rebounds.

Newport counters with a trio of double-figurer scorers – senior Marquez Miller at 15.8 points, freshman Taylen Kinney at 14.0, and junior Jabari Covington at 12.2.

Look for Miller and Kinney to alternate guarding Perry, who makes 53% of his shots – including 45.4% of his 3-pointers – and 81.8% of his free throws.

“We want to make (Perry) put it on the floor as much as we can and make him shoot off the dribble,” Rod Snapp said. “If he is set and has an inch of daylight anywhere, he is an elite shooter. We’ve got to make him as uncomfortable as possible.”

Whatever happens Thursday, it’s been a good year at Newport because the Wildcats won the school’s first Ninth Region title since 2010. The Snapps – and the Wildcats – believe that should put them in the conversation with perennial powers Covington Catholic, Highlands and Cooper.

“Newport’s never won a state championship, and we talk about that, the kids talk about it,” Rod Snapp said. “Some people laugh about it or think it’s a joke … I don’t think a lot of people counted (on) Newport to win.”

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