When the Utah Jazz dismissed the popular Ty Corbin from the sidelines, the search for a new direction immediately commenced. Names like Alvin Gentry and Adrian Griffin were mentioned. Even former Jazz great John Stockton was mentioned as a potential candidate.
But Utah has reportedly decided to surprise us. News broke Friday that Quin Snyder is headed to Salt Lake City.
You may not be very familiar with Snyder's work, but that's hardly a reflection on the job he's capable of doing. His NBA career has been a short one. His most recent gig—a one year stop as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks—hardly constitutes a wealth of NBA credentials.
But dig a little deeper, and an intriguing background turns up.
This is a guy who's had success in the college ranks, leading Missouri to an Elite Eight appearance in 2002. He also has ties to the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, two franchises who know a thing or two about successful coaching staffs.
Maybe the Jazz quietly just found a keeper.
We should probably give them the benefit of the doubt. Recall that general manager Dennis Lindsey spent five seasons as an assistant general manager for the San Antonio Spurs, learning from one of the best front office minds in the NBA in R.C. Buford. If the Spurs' philosophy and way of doing things has carried over at all, Lindsey's decisions probably shouldn't be second-guessed just yet.
Nor should Snyder.
Before jumping into the coaching business, Snyder was a fine player in his own right, per his profile on NBA.com:
The former Duke guard (1985-89) played in 136 games, including three Final Four appearances over a four-year period. He was elected a team captain and honored as an Academic All-American during his senior season. Snyder attended Mercer Island High School in Washington, where he was a two-time state player of the year and a McDonald's All-American.
The 47-year-old got his start as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 1992-93 campaign. From there, he worked for six seasons as an assistant at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski. In 1997, he was promoted to associate head coach.
A close working relationship with Krzyzewski may be all you need to know. It speaks volumes to the winning pedigree from which Snyder comes.
By 1999, Snyder had outgrown his role in a supporting cast and accepted the head coaching position at Missouri. He would go on to lead the Tigers to four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, cementing his status as a rising star in the college coaching ranks.
After officially resigning in 2006 amidst allegations of minor rules violations, Snyder made his move to the NBA's Development League in 2007. There he served as head coach of the Austin Toros from 2007 to 2010.
And—once again—was quite successful.
Steve Kelley, a now retired sports columnist from The Seattle Times, wrote about Snyder's NBDL success in 2010—noting that Snyder sent more players to the NBA than any other D-League coach.
If you're distilling any takeaways thus far, here's one that should become abundantly obvious. Snyder has a history of molding young talent. He's done it at the college level, and he's done it in the Development League. That could pay huge dividends on a team led by the likes of Derrick Favors, Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter.
The Jazz are young and eager to emerge from the basement of the Western Conference. That's a challenge for which Snyder will be ready.
That's a big part of the reason NBA teams showed some faith in him after the stint in Austin.
After a brief tenure as a player development coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, Snyder took an assistant position with the Los Angeles Lakers under Mike Brown. He spent the following season coaching in Moscow, but returned to the states for the 2013-14 campaign as an assistant under Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta.
Budenholzer is himself a former assistant with the Spurs, and was no doubt familiar with Snyder in part because of his success with the Toros—San Antonio's D-League affiliate.
That time with the Toros also gave Lindsey a hint of Snyder's capabilities. Lindsey, then with the Spurs organization, worked with Snyder while Snyder developed players as coach of the Toros.
It's hard to measure just how much of Atlanta's success can be attributed to a particular assistant, but it's certainly fair to say the Hawks overachieved this season. Coaching usually has something to do with that.
Snyder is no doubt still crafting a coaching philosophy fit for the NBA. But there are a few things we can already glean, chief among them that he should be very popular with his players. Veteran sportswriter Jeff Pearlman wrote about Snyder's ability to relate to players in a 2008 special to ESPN Page 2:
'He's different than any of the other coaches you see here,' says Kevin Pittsnogle, the former West Virginia star who played for Austin earlier this year. 'Most coaches here are all about my-way-or-the-highway. But Coach Snyder was very detailed, very into his players, very into seeking our input.'
A willingness to listen will be important in Utah. Sometimes teams don't react well when they miss their old coach, and there's little doubt Corbin will be missed. Nevertheless, Snyder should be able to get his players to buy in. He seems to have the right personality for it.
He also has the right background, an eclectic one in which he's learned from some of the best. That experience should translate into a wealth of valuable knowledge. Jeff Zillgitt, an NBA writer for USA Today, shared a quote on Snyder from NBA coaching veteran Doug Collins:
Snyder's background also makes for some solid connections.
It could lead to an interesting combination of assets alongside him on the bench. According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein: "NBA coaching sources say Snyder is expected to pursue European coaching legend Ettore Messina as an assistant. Snyder worked under Messina as an assistant with European power CSKA Moscow among his recent stops."
Messina had been linked to the Jazz as a potential solution for the top spot, as well. He's a tough, "demanding" customer who could play "bad cop" to Snyder's more forgiving disposition.
Per The Salt Lake Tribune, at least one member of the Jazz is excited about Snyder's arrival.
Favors said, "I’m looking forward to working with him and looking forward to being a great team this year. I think everybody’s relieved now that we know who the coach is."
He may be even more impressed when he gets to know the new coach. Those who've previously played under Snyder liked what they saw.
Jazz fans may win big, too. Snyder could be the guy to turn this team around and help it through what promises to be a continued growing process.
He'll certainly get the first crack at it.
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