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Utah Jazz ‘took a big step’ in hiring Snyder (video)

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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah Jazz introduce their new head coach, Quin Snyder, center, Saturday, June 7, 2014. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey is at left, and Jazz CEO Greg Miller is at right.

By Aaron Falk

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jun 07 2014 12:23PM
Updated Jun 7, 2014 08:37PM

When the idea of hiring Quin Snyder first came up, Dennis Lindsey wasn’t sold.

It was 2007 in Texas, and San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford was interested in his assistant’s thoughts on having Snyder coach the D-League’s Austin Toros.

"R.C., I’m skeptical," Lindsey replied.

Five years later, as he handed the keys to an NBA team to Snyder, safe to say Lindsey is a believer.

As he was introduced Saturday as the eighth head coach in Jazz history, the 47-year-old Snyder came with promises to embrace player development for a young, rebuilding team, a commitment to making defense a priority for a squad that was the worst in the league at it last year, and a willingness to embrace analytics.

"This fit for me," Synder said, "is terrific."

After an "exhaustive search," Snyder emerged as the leader of a pack of four finalists that included Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin, Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry and Jazz assistant Brad Jones. On Friday, the Jazz and Snyder agreed to terms, reportedly a three-year deal with a team option for a fourth season.

"His humility, his intelligence and how well-educated he is, not just in the academic world but in the basketball world," Jazz owner Gail Miller said of the qualities she saw in Snyder. "Also, I was impressed with his desire to be the head coach of the Utah Jazz and lead this team to a championship. So that’s what we’re looking forward to. No pressure, Quin."

For Snyder, the job marks the latest stop in a decade-long redemption tour.

At 32 years old, the former Duke point guard with a law degree was named the head coach at the University of Missouri. But recruiting violations and losses resulted in a messy divorce with the Tigers.

"I’ve faced some challenges in my life," he said Saturday when asked about his past. "Those challenges have helped me. I’ve been through some adversity and that adversity has made me a better coach and it’s made me a better person. I feel like I’ve persevered through some things and just tried to work had and have been fortunate to have the support of a lot of good people."

Snyder’s fall landed him in Austin.

In the D-League, Snyder maintained the difficult balance of matriculating players to the NBA while still piling up wins, earning Lindsey’s admiration along the way.

After that, Snyder spent time in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Moscow and Atlanta.

"No one’s more happy than my wife, Amy [who attended Utah State University for a time], that we get to stay somewhere awhile, Snyder said. "Hopefully a long time."

Snyder said his time as an assistant helped erase coaching blind spots. It also set him up for his latest task in Utah.

"One of the things that came out with Quin during the process was how hungry he was to prove himself in the head coaching position again," Lindsey said.

Snyder’s work in the D-League, as well as his focus on player development as an assistant, intrigued Jazz officials.

"I love player development," Snyder said.

In Utah, the coach will have plenty of that to do as he tries to work with a roster filled with unproven players, but a group Snyder nonetheless called "an excellent foundation."

Snyder said he wants to take advantage of his team’s athleticism, "to play with some pace to try to give us a chance to make some easy baskets."

Snyder also impressed with his promises and plans for addressing the team’s defensive woes.

"We’d like to have a defensive identity," he said. "That’s an area we’d like to take a stand. It involves habits, focus."

For Jazz CEO Greg Miller, the hire is perhaps the biggest decision he’s made since taking over duties after his father’s death.

"Really, the goal that I have, the goal our family has … is to see this team become a championship contender again and of course win a ring," he said. "When I’m driving on the road and having the opportunity to just think through things and sort out issues in my life, one of the things that is so appealing to me is to win a ring for my dad posthumously. … Anything we can do to take a step closer to that is something I’m committed to. I think we took a big step in that direction when we hired Quin."

afalk@sltrib.com Twitter: @tribjazz

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