The Jazz might blow it with Quin Snyder.
They’ve already edged in that direction.
That’s a shame. More than that, it’s competitively stupid.
It’s time for them to edge back — in a rush.
As a matter of full disclosure here, I admit right up front, I like Snyder. I’ve asked him every kind of basketball question imaginable and he’s answered. I like him personally and professionally. More significantly, I respect him.
In his eight years in Utah, the coach hasn’t been perfect. Who is? This, though, is what he has been and is — better at what he does than anybody else connected to the Utah Jazz.
Not sure about that?
Name five NBA coaches better than Snyder. Go on, we’ll wait. … still waiting … waiting still.
You can certainly name five players better than anyone on the Jazz, five better owners, maybe five better executives. Snyder is undoubtedly in an exclusive club, as one of the elite plying his trade.
He’s loaded into a team a winning culture that sorely needed it when he arrived. He built an outfit into the NBA’s best defense, and then built an outfit into the league’s best offense.
Who does that? Almost nobody.
He’s kept a team together even when that team was burping up and suffering from any number of distractions. Everything from losing assistants to smoothing through new ownership and disrupted management to player personality clashes and handling the onset of a global disease for which his guys were blamed.
Does that sound like someone you’d want to see walk away?
Snyder could remain here and thrive here, win here, win a whole lot here. Despite a cloud of rumors, his tenure in Utah doesn’t have to end. Not now. It could go on for another eight years or eight plus eight.
But with new individuals in key roles with the Jazz, including Ryan Smith, Dwyane Wade and Danny Ainge, team leaders Snyder holds in high regard, and with a stale environment remaining from those who had filled similarly important roles before, there’s been talk that maybe Snyder should walk, could walk. Not the plank, just out the door.
On the Jazz’s side, there’s no compelling reason. On the coach’s, there’s opportunity elsewhere.
Contrary to reports, Snyder has not turned down an extension offer from the Jazz. He and the team last summer agreed, with so many changes around the club, to postpone discussions about his future to an undetermined later date.
It could yet end up going either way. Speculation that the matter is already decided or mostly decided is incorrect; instead, it’s still spinning like a Wilson tossed up in the air.
Jazz general manager Justin Zanik rightly said in his post-elimination press conference the other day that Snyder is one of the best coaches in the league and there’s nobody he’d rather partner with in the Jazz’s ongoing pursuit of an NBA championship.
Anybody who thinks otherwise is … confused.
The fact that Snyder has not coached a Jazz team to the league’s pinnacle through his seasons at the helm has little to do with his own shortcomings. It’s much more about who and what Jazz managers have given him with which to work.
Red Auerbach couldn’t have coached this team to more success than Snyder has.
It’s easy for some observers — especially those who work in front of a mic or camera as carnival barkers — to simply look, black and white, at the Jazz’s results in the postseason since Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell arrived in Utah, and point a finger directly at Snyder as the responsible party for them falling short.
He doesn’t make proper adjustments. He isn’t demonstrative enough. He utilizes the wrong rotations. His judgment in specific situations needs improvement.
Anyone who has watched the Jazz closely knows different.
Is he sometimes wrong? Yeah.
Is he regularly wrong? No.
In the series against the Mavs, the Jazz wanted to shoot the 3, as they’ve done for seasons now. Dallas has strong perimeter defenders and it did complicate some of the Jazz’s attempts from deep. But there also were many open looks available, looks the Jazz created, but simply didn’t convert.
They shot nine percent below their drain average on catch-and-shoot 3s, while the Mavs shot seven percent above their average on the same shots.
The so-called “expected score,” based on average shooters making shots, factoring in shot quality (how open shooters are), the Jazz would have beaten Dallas, four games to two.
They did not, but it wasn’t because the plan was bad.
How Game 6 ended was emblematic of the entire series, and hence, the Jazz’s elimination: A game-winning 3 taken — and missed — by a reliable shooter (Bojan Bogdanovic), a play craftily designed by Snyder. The shot goes in, everything is terrific. The shot clanks off the rim, everything is not, the Jazz lose and Snyder has failed as a coach, right?
The Jazz embraced their strength. What else should they have done with the players they had?
On the whole, this is not a case of a team regularly being overloaded with a bunch of stars and the coach getting in their way, or fumbling and bumbling around. It is a case of a team with a couple of limited, evolving stars, buttressed by a group that has not been quite good enough to make up the difference between Mitchell’s and Gobert’s level and the level of the stars against whom they have competed in the postseason.
When it became evident that the Jazz needed more, after finishing with the league’s best regular-season record last year, then getting ousted by the Clippers in the playoffs, management went out and added … who? … Rudy Gay, a player that was old and injured, Eric Paschall, Danuel House and Juancho Hernangomez. Was that supposed to make a huge difference?
Sure, the Jazz were in a tough spot with their finances, with so much money already tied up in their roster, but that wasn’t Snyder’s fault. Some outsiders might believe the coach has all kinds of power when it comes to personnel decisions, but there are egos and job assignments involved in executives exerting their own opinions and power within most organizations.
The Jazz were and are no different.
Snyder won’t publicly blame anyone else for his teams’ failings, even if he knew those failings were not his own. You’d have to pry open the coach’s mind to uncover any of that, and, if you did, you still might gain no bright discovery in that regard.
From my point of view, the Jazz have made some bang-on proper moves, as well as errors of judgment and ego by and among some of their own in recent times, passing along certain decisions that did not put the team at a competitive advantage. Again, nobody’s perfect.
Like any worthwhile coach, what Snyder has always wanted with the Jazz is a combo-pack of two things: support from those around him and a chance to have an assembled team in front of him that he could build into something better than it already was. By my reckoning, he doesn’t even care as much as you’d expect about winning games.
It’s good, it’s just not — sorry, Vince — everything or the only thing.
Sure, Snyder wants to win a championship, he’s driven to do so. But he never talks about that. What he talks about is daily, monthly, yearly improvement. Getting the most out of his players as they form a team whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In some ways, Snyder is more Aristotle than he is Gregg Popovich.
If the Jazz parted ways with the philosopher-coach, there would be other suitors lining up to employ him. Already are. That’s the other obvious half of this thing. Does Snyder want to stay in Utah?
I’ve been asked that question a thousand times. And my response always is: Hell, I dunno. It could go either way.
Here’s the truth: Not even Snyder knows with exactness what he’ll do.
If I were Smith and/or Wade, not only would I roll out whatever reasonable amount of money I needed to keep Snyder right where he is, I would do it with an attitude that demonstrates to the coach not that he would be ceded stacks of power and control here, rather that he is wanted here, valued here, listened to here, supported here, and that, in my limited opinion, would be enough to keep him here. Particularly if there is that sensible plan in place to bounce the thing forward.
If some of the players, no matter what they say outwardly, don’t like or won’t easily listen to Snyder, or have grown tired of him, that situation should be rectified from the top down, not the bottom up.
The telling question: Is there a smarter, better, more capable and qualified coach out there who could lead the Jazz — in whatever form they take moving ahead — to more elevated heights than Snyder can?
The answer to that is … a stone-cold no.
The answer to the greater issue is easy, then.
The Jazz should do whatever they can to retain Snyder’s services, making it 100-percent clear to him, to everyone that he is theirs and that they are his.
The Jazz haven’t reached their goal. That can be healed and overcome. But in the interests of the team, the complete overcoming and healing should commence straightaway … like, right now.
End the postponement.
Make Quin Snyder an offer he can’t refuse.
And make sure he knows that you know that he knows that that isn’t a death threat.
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