In the summer of 2014, the Utah Jazz were facing a daunting off-season. For the first time in literally decades, the team was encountering something very unfamiliar: a hiring search for a new head coach.
With Tyrone Corbin’s contract not being renewed, there were mixed emotions in the air. Uncertainty, excitement and curiosity, to name a few. General Manager Dennis Lindsey and his team embarked on an exhaustive and lengthy journey, interviewing numerous candidates. By many accounts, the Utah front office visited with numerous coaches, and for six weeks or so, many names cropped up in the rumor mill. Some established coaches like Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins and Alvin Gentry were tweeted about. There were a few internal candidates in Alex Jensen and Brad Jones. Highly respected assistant coaches like Adrian Griffin and Jim Boylen were discussed, as were basketball minds without any coaching experience — such as one Steve Kerr,
When the dust settled, one man stood out to Lindsey and company: Quin Snyder. On June 6, 2014, the team made it official. They had their man in. With a long basketball resume and a reputation for player development, they inked a young coach eager to help lead a equally young Jazz roster back to respectability and eventually contention.
And now they have their man for the foreseeable future. On Friday, the Jazz announced a multi-year extension for Snyder — a move that is understandably being lauded by the national and local media, as well at the team’s fanbase. It is definitely a fine way to kickoff what will inevitably be an interesting and potentially crucial off-season for Utah.
So what does this extension mean for the Jazz moving forward? Many things.
First, it shows the team’s absolute trust in Snyder… trust he absolutely earned through hard work, dedication and passion for the game. In two short seasons, Snyder has reshaped the team, doubling the wins along the way. He has the team knocking on the postseason door, something they should enter next season, barring more damaging injuries. Many view the Jazz as a team with immense potential, with Snyder being the heart of the operation.
Snyder is a player’s coach, one who is constantly teaching. Before, during and after the game, Snyder can always be seen visiting with a player one-on-one, sharing counsel, instruction and even the occasional constructive criticism session. Under his tutelage, established players like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors brought their games to a new level, becoming near All-Stars. Likewise, he helped accelerate the development for Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood, two players who quickly have proven better than most experts prognosticated. Snyder has helped create a roster of promising players that many other envy.
Even though injuries plagued them all season, Utah almost always gave great effort. While the youthful team faced some growing pains — closing out close games, turnovers, etc — effort was rarely a reason for a loss. Snyder motivated his team to lay it out there, and more often than not, it did. The players wanted to do well for their coach. From the players’ comments to the way they carry themselves on the court, it is clear that Snyder has his team’s respect and admiration.
Once one of the league’s poorest defending teams two years ago, the Jazz now are one of its best. Snyder has instilled within his players a defensive mentality and persona. The interior defense is stifling and imposing, while the others are scrappy and hustle. While the offense is still a work in progress, Utah’s defense is already elite and will be even more potent when Dante Exum returns. This will unquestionably be a trademark of the Quin Snyder Jazz teams.
Second, Snyder’s extension speaks volumes to the Jazz’s ownership and management and the value the franchise places on stability. In just the past six months, coaches like Kevin McHale in Houston, David Blatt in Cleveland and Frank Vogel in Indiana have been unceremoniously let go. McHale was off the heels of a surprising Western Conference Finals appearance, which was quickly forgotten in the midst of a struggling start this year. Blatt was one of the most successful first-year coaches in NBA history, but was ousted — while his Cavs were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. And Vogel was very good in Indiana, getting the most out of the rosters he was deal each and every season. In each case, things like needing a new voice were mentioned, at the cost of stability. Some teams change coaches the way one changes clothes.
Not the Jazz and the Miller family. Going back to Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan, the team values continuity and with reports that Snyder’s pact carries him through 2020-211, the same will apply to Snyder. When you find a coach that fits well and has a lot of potential, it is wise to go long-term. He would be a very desired commodity had his contract elapsed. This loyalty is something that affects other team’s perceptions of the Jazz, which could factor in future interactions.
Third, because of his relationships with his team, having Snyder in the fold for many more years could help Utah’s efforts with retaining their core players. Hayward’s free agency next summer looms large for many. The chances are high that he will opt out; in fact, it is a no-brainer. That said, if the Jazz continue to progress and take another solid leap forward next season, knowing Snyder will be his coach could go a long way in keeping Hayward in Salt Lake City. Throughout their time together, Snyder has had his star’s back. That is something to note. The same applies for contract discussions with Gobert, Favors, Exum and Hood the next few off-seasons.
Snyder’s reputation could also help the Jazz’s pitch to other free agents. Many players he previously coached — Kobe Bryant, Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll — have heaped praise on him. When they were reunited, Shelvin Mack talked about how much he loves playing for Snyder. Mack went on to play the best ball of his career. The way Snyder has helped mold his young guys is something people notice. He is respected. He has also assembled a very solid coaching staff that is integral in any success he experiences.
Lastly, this positive news is a great way to commence what will undoubtedly be a busy, eventful and crucial summer. With four draft picks, a lot of cap space and decisions to make about some players, Lindsey will have his hands full. The moves that transpire over the next five months could have lasting impact on the short and long-term prospects for the team. Having a coach in place for the long haul not only helps now, but it provides security and relief.
Two years ago, Snyder was the Jazz’s man. That still is the case today and will be for many years to come.