Could Quin Snyder leave the Utah Jazz this summer? What to make of the rumors surrounding the coach’s contract talks

Rumor Reaction: As negotiations drag on, there’s growing speculation that Snyder could walk away. The Trib’s Andy Larsen breaks down the situation.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder calls out to his players as the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

As first reported by NBA reporter Marc Stein in March, Quin Snyder has yet to come to terms on a contract extension with the Jazz. Back then, I spoke to Snyder about those reports. The longtime head coach expressed displeasure that such rumors were circulating — but fell short of saying that he wanted to remain in Utah for the long term.

This week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon reported that the negotiations between Snyder and the Jazz are “expected to continue,” but the sides have not come to terms due to “philosophical issues.” In addition, MacMahon, on the Hoop Collective podcast, said that it was his “informed speculation that Quin Snyder is likely going to end up leaving.”

Snyder’s contract status

Snyder still has one more year left on his deal, keeping him under contract for the 2022-23 season. Furthermore, he holds an option on his contract for it to continue through the 2023-24 season. This, then, is a straightforward contract extension negotiation — except that the extension talks have dragged well beyond their usual timeline.

As mentioned by MacMahon, Snyder could also choose to walk away from the last year of his deal, leaving the Jazz to find a new coach for this upcoming season. In addition, the Jazz could even trade Snyder to another team, if that team wanted to give up assets for the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NBA.

Considering the source

Stein covered the NBA at ESPN, then the New York Times — his resume and reporting is sterling. Wojnarowski is the gold standard when it comes to NBA transactions, and MacMahon is a highly respected reporter as well.

There’s no doubt it raised a little bit of confusion when ESPN released their article this week with little new info beyond what had already been reported in a story other outlets have been on for months. But given ESPN’s position as the “Worldwide Leader of Sports,” any new article by them will create a new round of conversation.

And with the relationships Wojnarowski and MacMahon have, that actually makes sense in this case. Wojnarowski is exceptionally close with Justin Zanik and maintains good relationships with much of the Jazz’s front office — most NBA teams have one preference between ESPN’s Woj and The Athletic’s Shams Charania, and the Jazz usually choose to leak their news through the former when possible.

But Woj also has a strong relationship with Quin Snyder’s agent, Warren LeGarie, and likely wouldn’t want to put out a story that would jeopardize that relationship, either.

Rumor reaction

So, I think it’s fair to put the tea leaves together: Those relationships may well be one reason ESPN waited so long on this story — they didn’t want to upset their connections on either side, instead hoping for a mutually beneficial resolution. Given that, that Woj and ESPN did come out with an article this week is notable, because the situation has gotten to a critical point.

One key possibility is that one of the parties involved wanted an ESPN story out there, in order to try to hustle the negotiations along, or to try to induce a changed offer or position. MacMahon noted that the Jazz have made an offer that “would put him up there with the highest-paid coaches in the NBA.”

Frankly, this could have come from either side: Either the Jazz want Snyder to make a decision more quickly so that they can get on with their offseason, or Snyder and LeGarie want the Jazz to make a stronger offer, or to budge somewhat on those “philosophical issues.”

What are those philosophical issues? Well, the very future of the team. Snyder knows that this is a pivotal offseason — do Zanik and CEO Danny Ainge want to rebuild and start over in their own vision? Do they hope to re-tool, trading one of their stars, yet remaining competitive? Or do they want to “run it back,” as they say, and give this core another chance despite the stale feeling?

There also must be conversations about what Snyder’s role will be in the team’s front office. Right now, Snyder has a voice in what the team does with player acquisition, even though he’s never publicly admitted it. Does he want to contractually insist on that voice? He’s had total control over his coaching staff in recent years, will that continue? What role will front office executives have in determining tactics, rotations, practice schedule, or even film sessions? Given the disagreements that have occurred between Snyder and the Jazz’s leadership in these realms in the past, it would make sense for them to come to a formal agreement on the matter moving forward.

The other possibility is that negotiations have gotten so stalled that ESPN couldn’t afford to ignore the story anymore. Frankly, that we’ve gotten this far in the story isn’t a good sign for these talks coming to a close with a happy Snyder signing on the bottom line — it is just extremely rare for coaching contract negotiations to be this public or this extended into an offseason.

Given that, and given Snyder’s public reluctance to tie his future to Utah, I think I have to agree with MacMahon’s guess, that “Quin Snyder is likely going to end up leaving.” All parties involved are giving room for the status quo to continue, so a deal could certainly still come to fruition, but contract negotiations with positive outcomes rarely come with so much noise.

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