Creative Off-Court Ideas for a Creative Coach

August 7th, 2014 | by Laura Thompson

Quin Snyder - Getty Images

We’ve been hearing really great things about Quin Snyder over the past couple of months. Everything from how he was the first coach to work with DeMarre Carroll on footwork, to his intelligence level from Paul Millsap, and how much he cared about the person, not just the player, from Gordon Hayward’s blog. This is what, in particular, has really stood out to me about how Snyder has been engaging the players so far. From Hayward’s blog:

I didn’t know much about our new coach, Quin Snyder, before he was hired. I’d seen him on benches before. I knew he had the reputation of being very tough, but also a player’s coach. And from what I’d heard, he is a really good X and O guy.

I talked to him right after I signed, and it was a really great conversation. We didn’t even talk basketball. He’d heard that I just recently got married, so we talked about the wedding, and things like that.

That really struck me. He seems like someone that players can relate to. It’s comforting when you can meet someone who you’re going to work with, and they know that it’s not all about basketball, and instead just chat with you about life. It helps to strengthen that relationship.

We’ve been hearing about how he has studied the pick-and-roll—and pick-and-roll defense—in depth, writing long reports on the topic. We’ve been hearing about how he’s got all sorts of ideas and an intense passion for coaching and teaching. How he’s open to trying different things and loves to be creative and innovative.

So what other creative ideas could Quin Snyder implement that might make things interesting and could provide better results? I’ve got a few ideas picked up from other teams (and one from a Jazz legend):

1. Diet. There was a fascinating article by Ken Berger at CBS Sports last year on the (brace yourselves) Lakers and their dietary changes. Having spent the last 18 years of my life firmly entrenched in health and nutrition, the article1 was incredibly interesting to me. Especially the part about how drastically they had to change Dwight Howard’s diet.

When [Cate] Shanahan was introduced to Howard last season, the All-Star center was having a miserable season with the Lakers and going down a terrible path with his diet. Shanahan couldn’t have found a more high-profile test case for her beliefs. If food can improve or damage your genetic code, as her research had shown, then why couldn’t it have the same impact on athletic performance?

“If you don’t feel better in two weeks,” Shanahan told Howard, “then I don’t know what I’m talking about and I’ll quit.”

With Howard, the intervention began where it does with most athletes (and non-athletes, for that matter) who need to change their diets. It began with sugar. It turned out that Howard was consuming the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day in the form of candy and soda — not to mention the additional sugar his body was making out of all the empty starches he was eating.

Howard was struggling to return to form after back surgery the previous spring, and was wrestling with the enormous pressure of whether to re-sign with the Lakers as a free agent. Cate Shanahan believed his performance and recovery were being seriously compromised by his poor diet. She saw the telltale signs of sugar addiction — spikes in energy followed by crashes and erratic motor skills that were indicative of nerves misfiring.

We’ve heard stories about how Deron Williams, for example, changed his diet after college and before starting in the NBA. Many NBA players hire chefs to help them out. But if they’ve continually eaten a steady diet of candy, soda, and other junk food while being able to maintain a pretty high level of performance, it makes sense that they wouldn’t have the desire or motivation to change dietary habits. But what if a chance in diet can give them better motor skills or help them recover from injuries more quickly? Some Lakers felt a difference in recovery and soreness after changing their diet.

Nash believes the infusion of healthy fats and oils helped him recover from a broken leg last season, and he’s holding out hope for any edge he can find as he tries to overcome residual nerve damage from that injury this season. Other players report that their joints aren’t as sore and their muscle recovery is better, like Steve Blake, who says his knees haven’t felt this good since he played for the University of Maryland.

“If you really stick to it, it really makes a difference,” Blake said. “Everything they’re telling us, one, it makes sense, and two, [Shanahan] has science to back it up.”

Maybe the Jazz could find an equivalent of a Cate Shanahan or a Grass-Fed Tim (the nickname affectionately given to the Lakers trainer who is Shanahan’s partner in crime) in order to help Jazz players improve their diets and–hopefully–their performance.

2. Sleep Patterns. The Oregonian discussed Nate McMillan’s implementation of a unique schedule after consulting with the head of the Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, Dr. Charles Czeisler, aka The Sleep Doctor. The article is very intriguing and it must have been quite an adjustment for Nate McMillan to tell his players to stay out late and to start practices at 10pm. But considering the results they saw on east-to-west road trips, you can understand why they were thrilled with the changes. 

And although he has never made a basket, or set any screens, many on the team feel The Sleep Doctor has played a major factor in the Blazers’ drastically improved play on the road this season.

“I think it has done wonders for our team,” Brandon Roy said.

After going 7-14 last season in games played two or more time zones away, the Blazers are 7-2 this season heading into this week’s four-game trip that starts Monday in Chicago and continues through Philadelphia, New Jersey and Charlotte.

“Sleep can provide a tactical advantage, and it is largely unrecognized in sports,” Czeisler said.

With 450 of the best players in the world playing in the NBA, you need every advantage you can get. And if adjusting sleep patterns helps, why not try it?

3. Consider alternative medicine. This might be an unpopular suggestion, but I watched a DVD recently in which John Stockton was interviewed, discussing his experience with chiropractic medicine. At one point, this was up on my screen (yes, I took a picture from my phone because I found it so interesting):


Maybe the Jazz have a chiropractor on staff. I don’t know. But if they don’t have one on staff, maybe one–or an acupuncturist, a nutritionist, etc.–would be helpful to help give the players an additional advantage. The Jazz started a league-wide trend in utilizing P3 for as many of their players as were interested. Why not see what else that’s out there might be helpful?

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

Laura was a Jazz fan since diapers, even growing up in California. Her favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach--though possibly not in that order.
Laura Thompson

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  1. Taylor says:

    Didn’t Big Al say that the jazz hired him a chef?

  2. Andrew says:

    Wow! Loved this stuff. I almost didn’t read this bit I’m glad I did. Super interesting and great ideas. No stone should be left unturned to gain an advantage in this league.

  3. IDJazzman says:

    I guess I am a little surprised by the information in this article. I was unaware how bad some of the diets these athletes are on. I assumed most would be doing strict dietary restrictions and eating much healthier than the general population, being afforded all the advantages that the general public don’t have. There is so much new information out there that can help athletes gain a competitive edge. I can feel a big difference in my health when I stopped eating refined carbs of any kind and only get my carbs from a few fruits, lots of vegetables and some ancient grains and a better quality protein from grass fed animals. Informative! I hope the Jazz can get all of their players to follow a healthy diet.

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