Quin Snyder hacked my computer.
That’s the only way to explain how every time I’ve prepared any kind of harsh evaluation of his fourth season as the Jazz’s coach, his team comes through with an improbable win. This Pavlovian strategy of success on the road, including Friday’s victory at Toronto, keeps spoiling my plan to advance the theory that Snyder is doing the worst work of his Jazz tenure.
The statement remains true, mainly because of the high standards he has established around here. When the Jazz hired him, I targeted Snyder as a star in the making. He rewarded my belief in him for three seasons. So I’ve expected more from him this year, even amid injuries and other personnel issues that make the dropoff to his 21-28 record understandable.
For more than a month, I’ve prepared a column criticizing his work. I’ve written it, deleted it, written it again and deleted it again: This is Snyder’s worst coaching job.
Every time, his team has intervened. The Jazz somehow won at Boston when Rudy Gobert was injured in December, and they beat Washington in early January when Rodney Hood was ejected.
QUIN SNYDER’S JAZZ RECORD
2014-15 • 38-44.
2015-16 • 40-42.
2016-17 • 51-31.
2017-18 • 21-28.
But then they looked horrible in the second half of Monday’s loss at lowly Atlanta, showing little sign of effort, and the critique was back in play. The Jazz again played uninspiring basketball Wednesday at Detroit, where they trailed by nine points in the last two minutes.
So I started writing: This is Snyder’s wor … Wait. The Jazz rallied, tied the game via Joe Ingles’ layup of Ricky Rubio’s in-bounds pass and won in overtime. Some cosmic forces clearly were at work.
Even so, a loss at Toronto would make them 6-20 on the road, enough evidence to make the point about Snyder. They were down by 12 points early in the third quarter.
One more time: This is Snyder’s wo … What? The Jazz won via Rubio’s go-ahead 3-pointer from the left wing with 4.8 seconds remaining after he took a pass from Donovan Mitchell.
Now the basketball gods were just acting silly, in defense of Snyder. Apparently, there can be no takedown of him — not when Rubio, of all people, is drilling the winning 3.
The reality is that, injuries aside, too many lapses in key stretches of games and too many flat performances overall will keep this Jazz season from ranking in the same class as Snyder’s first three years. Yet just when I wonder whether the players are responding to him, they produce something like Friday’s win over a very good opponent.
Fans? Forgiving. The franchise’s culture is built around the coach. That partly explains why general manager Dennis Lindsey and the players tend to get most of the blame, unlike other markets.
In any case, my informal survey clearly indicated that most Jazz devotees understand what Snyder is up against this season, having lost Gordon Hayward to Boston in free agency and Rudy Gobert to injury for long stretches. And he’s being asked to make something of a flawed lineup with Gobert, Derrick Favors and Rubio as non-shooters.
My biggest disappointment with Snyder and his staff, considering their proven ability to develop players, is I somehow thought they could do something about Rubio’s shot. That was asking a lot. But he delivered Friday, believe it or not, rewarding Mitchell’s decision to pass him the ball.
So now what?
My preseason forecast for the Jazz was a 42-40 record. When reasonably healthy, they have looked like a .500 team. The immediate issue, as the NBA’s Feb. 8 trade deadline approaches, is the Jazz’s playoff position. Through Friday, they remained 4½ games behind Denver for the Western Conference’s last spot. So the Jazz should act as sellers with future-oriented moves that will make them worse in what’s left of this season, but help ensure a recovery next year.
The Jazz’s coach keeps proving that he will thrive, with a better-designed roster. Everybody knows Gobert and Mitchell are the two people the Jazz won’t ever trade. To that list, add Snyder.