When asked directly on Monday afternoon about his future with the Utah Jazz, head coach Quin Snyder gave a circuitous non-answer which included a proclamation about his family’s love of Salt Lake City, his affinity for the team’s decision-makers, and an in-joke about not reading too much into his propensity for speaking in the past tense.
When asked about literally anything else to do with the team, though, his responses were permeated with subtle indications that he’s not yet ready to step away from the challenge of trying to elevate the franchise to another level.
“I’ll watch the film. I’ll meet with Danny [Ainge] and Justin [Zanik]. I’ve already done some of that with our staff, kind of impromptu,” Snyder said. “But that whole thought process is something that has yet to occur on the level that it will. You’re not satisfied, you have aspirations to be better and win more, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
What we’ll try to do.
“Some of the broader questions about roster things, those are better for you to ask Danny and Justin; that being said, we’ll all meet, we’ll talk exactly about how we can be better,” Snyder continued. “… First you want to give it time to breathe, and then you want to be exhaustive in how you look at that.”
How we can be better.
You get the idea.
Snyder had delayed his season-ending exit interview with the media by a week because he underwent hip-replacement surgery. After walking into the interview room at Zions Bank Basketball Campus on crutches, he noted Monday that he’d felt some discomfort this past fall and had an X-ray, which revealed that the joint was bone-on-bone. However, with the timing of the regular season, there was not much he could do about it in that moment.
So he had the procedure scheduled for June, but was able to move it up when the Jazz’s latest campaign once again reached an earlier-than-expected conclusion.
In between, the coach had to deal with all manner of peripheral distractions — a strong start followed by a COVID outbreak that decimated the roster for a month; a series of blown leads resulting in losses to inferior opponents; players within his roster taking veiled shots at one another through the media; national reports of star guard Donovan Mitchell’s apparent desire to move on; rumors and speculation about other teams’ interest in having Snyder at the helm.
And so it was that a second consecutive season which began with championship aspirations ended with a brief postseason run.
And yet, the coach pointed to what he saw as fundamental differences between the two seasons.
“The previous year, I think we maxed our team out during the regular season on a lot of levels. And that said, at the end of the year, we were left feeling a certain way,” Snyder said. “This year, I thought that our record didn’t necessarily reflect what we could do in the playoffs. I felt like we were this close to having a spark and kicking it in and finding that unity, that extra secret sauce, and taking off. And obviously that didn’t happen.”
As he dissected the Jazz’s 4-2 loss to Dallas in their first-round playoff series, he pointed to difficulties with ball containment, and unexpectedly poor shooting, noting that the team hit just 22% of its 3-point attempts over the series’ final three games.
As for why that happened?
“You expect some drop-off, but it’s pretty extreme,” he allowed. “… I don’t have an answer for you that’s satisfactory to me.”
Of course, discovering the why of it all only matters inasmuch as it relates to what the organization does next, how it decides to proceed.
To that end, when he was asked to what degree he weighs maintaining some continuity from what’s been a very good if not exceptional team against the change that may be necessary to boost the ceiling but which also carries the potential risk of damaging the foundation, Snyder gave a lengthy and uncertain reply.
“It’s a really good and difficult question to answer,” he said.
On the one hand, he’s proud that when the phrase “Jazz basketball” is uttered, it elicits distinct and instantly recognizable parameters which are easily definable. That denotes some level of accomplishment, as it implies something has been built. Not every team can claim as much.
Conversely, though, continuity is really only an asset insofar as it helps you maintain an already-achieved high level of success. Even as subjective as such a measure is, can the Jazz honestly look at what they’ve done over the eight years that Snyder has been the team’s coach and come away content?
“We’ve been to six straight playoffs — I’ve heard this when people try to say, ‘Hang in there, Quin. … You’ve won the third-most amount of games in the league the past five years.’ I’m not hanging my hat on that. We want to do more. We want more,” Snyder said. “… It’s a complex question, and the overarching thin red line that goes through my answer is that you’re not satisfied, no one’s satisfied.”
We want to do more. We want more.
There’s that word again.
Still, in an offseason where most observers are forecasting significant roster changes in order for the team to move forward, Snyder ultimately only would go as far as, “There is a sweet spot there.”
It remains to be seen definitively if he will be a part of that.