We’re nearing the half-way mark for this season and we’ve had another surprising coaching change1. We’ve seen some very interesting facts being tossed around as part of the game of coaching musical chairs. Here are a few:
Since Greg Popovich became coach of the Spurs during the 1996-97 season, there have been 221 coaching changes in the NBA. TWO-TWENTY-ONE!
From Jody Genessey, of the Deseret News:
Quin Snyder is now the 17th-longest tenured coach in the 30-team NBA. This is his second year on the job in Utah.
“I didn’t know that number. Hopefully, I’ll stay there (in Utah) for a while.” – Quin Snyder
“I think continuity is something that in a lot of professions may be undervalued. I’m fortunate to have a real cohesive group.” – Quin Snyder
It’s pretty remarkable how many coaching changes there have been over the last few years. Given the coaching carousel going on, I thought we’d grade Quin Snyder on his performance so far, since there have 18 months under the belt. We’ve seen how the team went into the offseason, how they prepared during the offseason, and we’ve seen a team battle injuries and significant adversity. How have they responded?
With the caveat and disclaimer that truly understanding the effect and impact of a coach is a difficult business2, this is by no means an all-inclusive list or a definitive list. But it might help frame a discussion among Jazz fans: How has Quin Snyder done in his first year and a half at the helm of an NBA team?
Coach Snyder was given the same three D’s by Dennis Lindsey as Tyrone Corbin: Defense, Discipline, and Development. Though many point to the trade of Enes Kanter last year as the catalyst for the Jazz’s defensive turnaround, the insertion of Dante Exum into the starting lineup was when the defensive numbers started shifting. Trading Enes Kanter and allowing Rudy Gobert to gobble up those big-man minute did accelerate the process, and the team went on a defensive tear, playing historically good defense for the last 30 or so games of the season. The Jazz were 19-10 last year after the Enes Kanter trade, and allowed 89.0 points per game after the All-Star Break (94.9 on the season). While those numbers haven’t held this season, it’s understandable given that Exum has missed the entire season, and both Gobert and Favors have missed significant time due to injury. Those injuries, unfortunately, are ruining my “Two-Year Defensive Coach Theory.”
Obviously, since development is a long-term development process, this is To Be Determined, but I think early results are good. Before the draft, and even after, we were often told that Dante Exum was going to be a poor defender. Snyder clarified that by saying that he’d just never been asked to play defense before, but he taught him fundamentals and put him in a position to be a very good defender—rare for a rookie point guard in the NBA! Rodney Hood is doing things as a second-year player that I wasn’t expecting, especially considering injuries last year kept him from getting into a consistent rhythm for much of the year. Gobert has talked about how the coaching staff and the system offered freedom sometimes required to improve:
As a rookie last year, Gobert made 45 appearances, averaging 2.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and roughly one block in nine minutes a game. This time around, Gobert says he’s packed on about 10 pounds, and he feels more comfortable and confident on the floor.”It’s totally different,” Gobert said. “I feel way better. My game, my confidence. I feel way better.” Part of that is experience and part of that is the team’s new coaching staff. Gobert, as was the case with Trey Burke and Dante Exum earlier this week, lauded the freedom allowed in new coach Quin Snyder’s offense.” I think I will be better because I play with less pressure,” Gobert said. “I just play. For every player, freedom is always better. … I was a little bit under pressure [last season] and I was a rookie so that was even harder.”
Jeff Withey echoed those sentiments this year in an interview with Basketball Insiders:
“The coaches here are amazing,” he told Basketball Insiders. “They give you a lot of confidence. Here, Coach [Snyder], he’ll come to you… it’s just a different type of coaching. More player-friendly, for sure.”
But what has been really interesting to watch is the transformation in Gordon Hayward’s game and efficiency under Quin Snyder. Part of development is making sure to highlight a player’s strengths, while providing the training to develop skills that will round out the player’s game.
Look at the jump in PER, TS%, FTr, and decrease in TV% all while his Usage Rate went up—it’s remarkable!
I talked about this last time, but I have been so impressed with Quin Snyder and the way in which he talks about his players, and the way in which he handles questions from the media. His answers are thoughtful and often quite comprehensive, without being sarcastic or condescending to reporters and fans. There are two aspects of communication that are so vital for coaches: communication with the players, but also communication with the media, and that communication with the media and fans helps create a culture that players want to be a part of. When you as a player know that your coach has your back, it can have a powerful effect on how you relate with and play for that coach.
More categories for next time, including in-game substitutions, timeouts and, of course, hair/stare/glare . . . But for now, what do you think, Jazz fans? How would you grade Quin Snyder in these areas?