Summer league proves an opportune time for Jazz assistant coaches to get in some development, too

(Eric Walden | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jazz assistant coach Vince Legarza addresses the media after Utah's 97-93 win over Portland at the Las Vegas Summer League on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Legarza is one of three Jazz assistants thus far to coach Utah's summer league team.

Las Vegas • For the three games of the Salt Lake City Summer League, Jazz assistant coach Lamar Skeeter headed up the team. For Utah’s first two games in Vegas, Johnnie Bryant was in charge. On Tuesday afternoon at Cox Pavilion, Vince Legarza was calling the shots against the Blazers.

Summer League is not just a place for players to prove they’re ready for and capable of more, after all.

“Summer league is great about development, it’s not only for the players,” Legarza said following Utah’s 97-93 win over Portland. “For myself, I coached a game a couple years ago with Minnesota, and I think I’ve gotten better. I think it’s a good show of what our organization is — Quin [Snyder] and Dennis [Lindsey] developing not only our players but our coaches. I got a lot of respect for the guys who do it every single night.”

Just as the team staff challenges players to implement and carry out what they’ve been taught, so too is this an opportunity for assistants to prove to their head coaches that they can do the same.

All three coaches said they get their general marching orders from Snyder, but that he also allows them enough latitude to try things their own way, as well.

“Quin, one thing about him is he’s a great teacher. He’s always telling us, ‘Hey, do this,’ but he’s also giving us the freedom to do what we want to do as well. So we have our foundation and what we want to do as far as Jazz basketball, and what he wants to do, but he also gives us the freedom to where we can explore,” Bryant said. “That’s why we’re coaching out there. Quin’s been great for everyone. Like I said, he’s one of the great teachers in basketball.”

Skeeter agreed.

“We talk a lot. Coach has such a tremendous impact on me and the rest of the staff. There’s no way we can go through this process without trying to pick his brain or get his input on things,” he said. “… Summer league, we’re trying to get better, and what better way to improve than to listen to the boss man?”

Utah Jazz coach Lamar Skeeter watches during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, July 3, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Still, with a group of players trying desperately to make an impression on someone in order to continue their basketball futures, is having so many different voices telling them what to do a potential pitfall?

Legarza said that while he and his fellow assistants are trying to convey the same message, there’s bound to be some differences along the way.

“Credit to our players adjusting each night to different coaches and different styles,” he said. “I don’t know if we have, per se, different styles — we tried to do some different things defensively tonight.”

For what it’s worth, after the Jazz knocked off the Blazers, the players seemed mostly unfazed by it all.

Tanner McGrew, who had his best game of the summer by nailing 5 of 8 shots from beyond the arc and totaling 17 points, said, “To be honest, they’re [all] very easygoing and just want us to play our game. They’re not doing a lot of coaching other than the X’s and O’s; they’re just trying to get us to do what we do.”

Big man Tony Bradley, who had another strong outing with 17 points, seven rebounds, and the game-clinching free throws, conceded, “It’s definitely different — each coach is different with how they approach the game,” but allowed that it wasn’t a terribly difficult adjustment.

For his part, Legarza was glad to hear that, saying he’s just trying to keep going what his fellow assistants got started.

“I’m the lucky one — Lamar did all the training camp work, so he kind of put everything in, and then Johnnie took over here and did a great job,” he said. “So I’m taking over and just trying to keep it going the right direction.”