Utah Jazz: No longer looking back, Quin Snyder marches into fourth season at the helm
Jazz coach says he is not losing sleep over Gordon Hayward departing this summer.
Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder points during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Washington. Snyder said he's been focused on the future this summer as he prepares for his fourth season as the coach of the Jazz.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
There’s reflection. There’s self-critique. And then there’s a threshold where Quin Snyder feels that he can wade too deeply into looking in the mirror.
On the heels of a 51-win season and going to the second round of the NBA playoffs, the fourth-year coach of the Utah Jazz said he’s been trying to self-evaluate his performance. But there’s a limit to how much he wants to dive into the past.
“I’m not sitting down on myself, going to therapy and saying ‘What can I do better?’ like Stuart Smalley,” Snyder said this week, referencing the self-dissecting “Saturday Night Live” character. “I’m looking forward really as much as anything.”
It’s been a must for the Jazz, who had less than a week of training camp to organize a team with a host of new players before their first preseason game on Monday night against the Sydney Kings. From two-a-day practices, to at least one practice that ran three-and-a-half hours long, to a brisk Friday scrimmage at Hill Air Force Base
, Snyder hasn’t had a lot of time to dwell.
The feedback from the person whose opinion matters most, team owner Gail Miller, was overwhelmingly positive as she talked about the Jazz last week.
“You have to give Quin a lot of credit for creating that kind of atmosphere,” Miller said. “[The players] are not in it for themselves. They’re a real team. That’s the only way we’ll win a championship.”
While championship contender talk would be premature in the era of superteams around the NBA, the Jazz are undoubtedly expected to be competitive
. And while part of that can be credited to the individuals on the roster — All-NBA center Rudy Gobert and a returning core of players from last year’s team — Snyder is being credited from Miller on down within the organization for building a culture over the last three years that the Jazz believe in.
So that’s how Utah is able to rationalize and envision success without its leading scorer from last year, who touched the ball on most possessions and keyed a lot of success, particularly in half-court offense.
Asked Sunday about how the Jazz will adjust to not having Gordon Hayward, returnee Joe Ingles showed his confidence in his coach: “We still play the way we play. You don’t change what you do because of one person.”
Snyder hasn’t been shy in confronting Utah’s great challenge on offense
not only without Hayward, but also without point guard George Hill. While the Jazz addressed their point guard situation by trading for Ricky Rubio, the former Minnesota Timberwolves guard has struggled with his shooting over the years. Snyder is not only aiming for a more transition-focused game, but also to see players like Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors help carry the half-court offense with improved play.
He’s been more reticent to publicly examine the circumstances of Hayward’s departure, or how he received it
. At media day, he said he believed that there was nothing else the Jazz could’ve done as an organization to retain Hayward. When asked after a practice if he had a “difficult summer,” Snyder jokingly asked if something had happened to him personally that he had missed.
“It’s not like, melancholy, where someone died, it’s just basketball,” he said. “I’ve said it last summer, and I’ll say it again, to look backward is a disservice to our guys.”
Snyder said he hasn’t read Hayward’s controversial letter in the Player’s Tribune, but understood that the player he helped groom into an All-Star was complimentary of the Jazz organization.
“That’s how I feel about Gordon,” he said.
That’s over now. On to the next chapter.
A variety of other offseason moves seemed to energize Snyder as Utah moved on from Hayward: He’s spoken glowingly of Donovan Mitchell
, whom the Jazz traded to move up in the draft to select. Rubio has reflected fondly on many conversations he had with Snyder
in the months leading up to his arrival in Utah.
In free agents such as Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko, the Jazz have added versatile pieces that can buy in to Snyder’s defense-first philosophy and are comfortable sharing the ball.
In that light, it’s easy to see why Snyder is ready to stop looking in the rearview.
“It wasn’t a sad summer,” he said. “I’m excited about the guys we have. That’s where my focus is.”
Tony Jones assisted with reporting this story.