Rodney Hood and his new coach Quin Snyder are more similar than you might imagine.
That sentence may seem strange, but it shouldn’t. Sure, they’re separated by 26 years of age1 and, sure, one is from rural Mississippi while the other was born in Mercer County, Washington. And of course, one is holding the clipboard and managing a team while the other is just one of many vital moving pieces therein.
But look a little deeper, and the similarities begin to emerge. The comparisons begin with their Duke ties, and with good reason. That both spent some portion of a pivotal time in any young adult’s life under the wing of one of sports history’s greatest teachers and motivators is no small fact, even if they did so at very different times and for different periods of time. Whatever one’s feelings on Mike Krzyzewski as a tactician, he’s spent decades running a program that teaches far more than just basketball, with spectacular results both on and off the court. Whether spoken or not, Hood and Snyder share a unique type of bond here, one based not on shared individual experiences but on mutual influences.
Both have come to understand, in their own ways, the importance of process and working through setbacks to eventual success. Hood was selected to the All-SEC freshman team in his first year out of high school before being forced to redshirt a full year upon his transfer to Duke, this despite rising stock nationwide. He then took on a complementary role on a Blue Devils team featuring Jabari Parker; he’s never going to lack perspective or an ability and willingness to buy into a concept and sacrifice for his team.
Snyder, for his part, was something of a golden boy in his early coaching years. He was groomed by Coach K both as a player and assistant, and was ascending to quite the heights for a 33-year-old bench boss as he beat out names like Bill Self and John Calipari for the Missouri head job in 1999. However, well-documented issues derailed his high-flying train, forcing the loss of his position and a big black mark against him. But whatever his transgressions may or may not have been, the way he responded speaks loudest to his character. Snyder regrouped and rebuilt, toiling as an assistant for multiple NBA teams and as the head man for the D-League’s Austin Toros2. A decade later, he’s reaped the rewards of persistence and dedication in the form of a position at coaching’s top level.
Both Hood and Snyder certainly understand the value and necessity of hard work. Both also know there’s lots ahead, both on the individual and team level, before the Jazz can attain their eventual goals. It’s now part of Snyder’s job to maintain high levels here, both for Hood and his teammates, a process that has already begun in earnest.
It won’t always be smooth sailing. Hood missed the first couple preseason games, but was tossed directly into the fire in his first appearance as he started in Alec Burks’ place opposite JJ Redick of the Clippers. With many of Hood’s early question marks on the defensive end, particularly whether or not his so-so lateral speed at his position would hinder his ability to chase quicker guys around the court and through multiple picks, Redick was a huge challenge right off the bat. Snyder knew it, too, saying after the fact, “It’s hard to chase JJ Redick. It’s good for him to have to do that.” And of course, the results were mostly as expected, with Redick running Hood through what must have felt like screen drills:
As he’ll need to continue doing when the stakes are far higher, though, Hood took the experience in stride. He noted his own errors as well as Snyder’s necessary corrections – the requisite “coaching moments.”
Of course, there will be plenty of positives along the way also. Hood’s smarts and basketball sense3, further traits he shares with his newest coach, are necessities for ball-handlers in Snyder’s motion system. They’ve already started to show in limited appearances thus far, with Hood finding a quick comfort level on the sort of catch-and-slash action that will so often be required of him and the other ball-handlers:
Snyder has been noted in his previous stops for the way he relates on an individual level with his players, the way he connects with them. As the two become more accustomed to one another, their similarities should help strengthen this sort of connection. Snyder will know there’s a common ground to fall back on, even if it’s just for a simple concept or teaching experience.
These are likely marginal details, but Hood has a long career with lots of work potentially ahead of him, and every little positive bit counts for something. And as he begins a rookie season likely to be filled with challenges and learning experiences, Hood will surely take whatever sorts of legs up he can get. And at the very least, the two should have some entertaining anecdotes for each other, right?