Ex-Duke star, coach Snyder has work cut out for him in Utah
Quin Snyder knows he has his work cut out for him with the Utah Jazz, but also feels he has the support of ownership to build the team back to a perennial playoff contender.
“For a coach to have the loyalty of the ownership group, you feel you don’t need to skip steps,” Snyder said Saturday as he was introduced as the team’s eighth head coach, and the first since 1979 hired from outside the organization. “It’s a process and sometimes there is pressure to accelerate that process but we want to build something that will last.”
Snyder, who just completed his first season as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks, takes over a team with a talented core of players 24 years old and younger. The Jazz also have two first round picks, including No. 5 overall, in the upcoming NBA draft.
Utah was also reportedly considering Chicago assistant Adrian Griffin, NBA coaching veteran Alvin Gentry and Jazz assistant Brad Jones. However, Synder’s reputation for player development played a primary role in landing the job.
“Trust is something that’s earned,” said Snyder, who has also been an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers. “It takes time but with players, they always respond when you give yourself to them and help them get better. They then give back to you. Those relationships are what drive player development.”
Snyder is the first outsider hired to lead the Jazz since former Houston Rockets coach Tom Nissalke for the franchise’s first season in Utah after moving from New Orleans.
After playing at Duke, Snyder — who has gained a reputation as a keen offensive mind with excellent communication skills — was an assistant for Larry Brown with the Clippers and then earned an MBA-law degree at Duke before assisting Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski for six seasons.
He was seen as a rising star in the college coaching ranks when he led Missouri to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament in 2002 and posted a 128-96 record over seven seasons. The team faltered toward the tail end of that time and he resigned as the school was placed on probation for minor infractions.
“There was a point in my career when I left Missouri when I just wasn’t sure I wanted to continue coaching,” Snyder said. “I had to rediscover my passion for the game over the next few years and I was so fortunate to work with an amazing caliber of coaches.”
Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey, who was previously in the San Antonio front office, became closely acquainted with Snyder when he coached the Austin Toros, the Spurs’ NBA Development League affiliate, from 2007-10.
“We decided with Austin that we would focus of development rather than winning, but what happened is that we developed players and helped the highest number of players matriculate to the NBA during that stretch. We also won a lot of games at the same time,” Lindsey said.
Snyder served as an assistant with CSKA Moscow under Ettore Messina and has also coached with Doug Collins and Gregg Popovich in the past few years.
“I’ve had a chance to work with some of the best minds in basketball,” Snyder said. “It’s humbling to think how I’ve been able to be around those people like Coach K, Coach Pop, R.C. Buford. Through those opportunities, you know what you don’t know. But I’d like to think I took advantage of it.”
Snyder inherits a team that went 112-146 in 3 1/2 years under Tyrone Corbin — including 25-57 last season, the franchise’s worst mark since going 24-58 in its first year in Utah.
“I love this game. It’s been good to me and I have a passion for it,” Snyder said. “I love player development and that’s something that’s central to me. I want to help these young men get better.”
With Snyder at the helm of an NBA team for the first time, the Jazz hope their players soon develop into the type of team they had while making 20 consecutive playoff appearances from 1984-2003.