Quin Snyder — now officially an ex-head coach of the Utah Jazz — hobbled into the interview room at the team’s Zions Bank Basketball Campus practice facility on Monday morning, sat down beside team owner Ryan Smith and CEO Danny Ainge, and waxed philosophical about about his eight-year tenure with the team coming to an end.
Here are five key points that emerged from the 25 minutes the trio spent making statements and answering questions from the media:
1. Snyder remains publicly vague about what went wrong
In the statement released by the team Sunday wherein it was announced that he was stepping down, Snyder said that his decision simply came down to believing the team’s players “need a new voice to continue to evolve.” When asked to expound upon that Monday in terms of when and why that feeling came about … well, he didn’t.
“You know, I think as I tried to say in my statement — which was a challenge to try to capture a lot of what went into making a decision — it was just time,” Snyder said. “I tried to give voice to that, and it really isn’t any more complicated than that as far as trying to look into a lot of different reasons and things and things like that. I just felt like I got to a place where it was time.”
When subsequently queried about his line to Tribune columnist Gordon Monson that “In the end, I just couldn’t see a clear path forward,” he once more went general.
“You try to be introspective and analyze and all those things, and I just got back to the same place: It was time — time for the Jazz to move forward, time for me to move forward,” Snyder said. “It just made the most sense to me. And as much as I try to articulate that, it’s not something that’s easily done.”
2. Nevertheless, leaving was his decision …
Look, it should be apparent from all the previous reporting about his will-he-or-won’t-he status that if Snyder left the Jazz, it would be because he wanted to — he had one year remaining on his contract, an option year after that, and, most critically, the team had offered him an extension, which he declined to sign.
And yet, there persists this narrative that because of the team’s latest early playoff ouster, he actually was shown the door by management. The other two men on the dais sought to put that to rest.
When general manager Justin Zanik (who was present Monday but didn’t speak) addressed the media in the immediate aftermath of the season, he said: “Quin Snyder is one of the best coaches in the NBA. There is no other partner I would rather have as a coach and as a leader of our players and as a partner in our front office than Quin Snyder.”
Ainge, in his opening remarks Monday, added of Snyder: “I feel like we have a good relationship that can go on well past this job and this opportunity.” He went on to add that he wanted “to spend some time with Quin and get his ideas [on the next coach] before he goes away.” That’d be a pretty brazen public request of a guy you sent packing.
Ainge later was even more pointed in his support of Snyder, saying he tried to convince the coach to stay, but ultimately accepted that he didn’t want to.
“We have spent the last few weeks talking, Quin and I, a lot about a lot of different things. And I think it’s pretty clear, we desperately wanted him to stay,” Ainge said. “And at the same time, I’ve walked away from coaching and I walked away from being a general manager after 18 years in Boston, and so I trust that Quin knows more what’s best for him and his family, much more than we do.”
Smith would go on to add — in a direct declaration to Snyder — that his early days of owning the team were made better by the coach.
“One of the things that got us most excited when we came in was the opportunity to work with you,” Smith said, “and that did not disappoint.”
3. … and it was one he agonized over
At various points during the news conference, Snyder touched upon how (if not why) he went about making the decision to step down. While noting that he was proud of what he helped to build in Utah, he also conceded there were opposite emotions in play, too.
“To the extent there’s a real sense of loss and some sorrow and sadness, I think that’s to be expected given everything that that took place here,” he said.
When he met with the media shortly after the season, he declined to answer questions about his contract or his future. That was May 9. On Monday, almost a month later, he elaborated that he’d been “consumed” with the question of whether to come back or to walk away “over a period of weeks.”
Ultimately, after quite a bit of back-and-forth, he finally felt at peace — as much as he’s able to at the moment, anyway — with his decision the day before the announcement went out.
“It was something I labored over. And, you know, you never have complete clarity on something like this,” Snyder said. “But, I think Saturday night, after thinking about it for a significant period of time, over the course of weeks, it just felt like it was time.”
4. His immediate future is uncertain
Ainge, in his opening remarks in praise of Snyder, acknowledged that the coach is likely to be drawing up schemes to stop the Jazz somewhere down the line: “I know that he’s going to be coaching somewhere else in the near future — next year, probably — and [will] be the most wanted coach out there. He’s well-respected in the NBA by all of his peers.”
Ainge did not specify whether “next year, probably” meant the next basketball season, which will begin this coming October, or literally the next year, as in, taking over a team in the summer of 2023. Considering the Charlotte Hornets are the only team besides the Jazz to have a head coach opening right now (and have reportedly narrowed their choices to Mike D’Antoni and Kenny Atkinson), and that Snyder’s résumé is probably too good for him to have to settle for an assistant’s job again, next year seems more likely.
Snyder, meanwhile, said on multiple occasions Monday that because he’s been so focused on his future with the Jazz, he hasn’t given much thought to the future. That said, he did seem to drop a pretty significant hint that his timeline is more in line with next year.
“That hasn’t been on my mind at all. I’ve just been focused on this, and it’s been consuming on many levels. I don’t have any intention of … I don’t know what I’m going to do next year, as far as coaching next year or anything along those lines,” he said. “I know I’m going to be at Halloween with my daughter. We talked about that. That’s a silver lining to me stepping down.
“… I’m fortunate to have a family that I look forward to spending a lot of time with. That’s a pretty good start,” he added.
5. The Jazz won’t be in a rush to hire his successor
That about summed up all the Snyder developments for the time being. So it was natural to focus some attention on who might be next head coach for the organization.
Ainge was asked if he started mentally compiling a list of candidates after the season ended, just given Snyder’s apparent reluctance to commit, and conceded that was indeed the case.
Still, he claimed that in spite of the various list of names making the rounds publicly, the organization really is in the beginning stages of the coaching search.
“Yeah, I considered it. I spent some time contemplating the possibility,” Ainge said. “… I have my ideas, but we really haven’t discussed it internally with the rest of the staff, or with Ryan. So I don’t know the answer to that. I have a few [in mind], but I’m not sure I even know them well enough to give you their names. But it’s the very beginning of the process.”
Asked about how this coaching search would compare to the two he did in Boston (which landed Doc Rivers and Brad Stevens), he acknowledged “this will be much different than the two previous ones. And probably more thorough.”
Smith was in agreement there, quickly interjecting: “We’re going to take our time. We’ve got to get it right.”
When Ainge was asked about the timing of the search, and the importance of having a new head coach in place for the coming NBA Draft and the start of free agency, he said that was not a priority.
“That’s not a concern right now,” Ainge said. “We’ve got to get this right. We’ve got big shoes to fill.”