Quin Snyder deciding to leave the Utah Jazz earlier this week officially put the organization into transition mode. After eight seasons with Snyder at the helm, the team’s front office is looking far and wide for the Jazz’s next voice, and all the while, deciding what to do with the roster after a disappointing finish in this season’s playoffs.
Jazz owner Ryan Smith CEO and Danny Ainge provided a glimpse into their thinking on Monday during Snyder’s farewell news conference. But Ainge gave even more insight into the coaching search in a recent sit-down interview with radio personality David Locke.
“I want a coach with integrity that is willing to work, that is willing to work together, that understands that it’s bigger than his program,” Ainge said. “I want a coach that obviously knows what that means, how hard he has to work, that has a hunger and that is going to give all that he has to the franchise and to his players and develop the relationships that are critical.”
The Jazz have already asked to interview several people around the NBA, and Las Vegas oddsmakers have made their predictions as well. Some of the names that have surfaced in various reports are former Jazz assistant Johnnie Bryant, current Jazz lead assistant Alex Jensen, current Los Angeles Lakers assistant David Fizdale and former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts.
Ainge has prior experience hiring head coaches. As the longtime general manager of the Boston Celtics, he got Doc Rivers (now coaching the Philadelphia 76ers) and Brad Stevens (now president of basketball operations in Boston). Rivers won a championship with the Celtics in 2009.
But in this coaching search, Ainge reiterated that the Jazz have the luxury to be patient, partially because several current assistants are under contract for multiple years.
“I think we’re in really good shape right now,” Ainge said. “So I think we can take our time and get this right.”
With Rivers and Stevens, Ainge had his eye on them early on. They were his first choices at the time. But the Jazz search is wider, more “thorough,” as Ainge has said. And there’s been plenty of interest already, and there will likely be more in the coming weeks.
“There’s a lot of guys that I’ve liked, heard many good things about,” Ainge said. “And now I’m finding out that they would really love a chance to coach the Utah Jazz.”
Locke asked Ainge directly about whether he will seek input from any of his players during the coaching search. While the name Donovan Mitchell wasn’t specifically mentioned, there has been speculation that the Jazz’s star guard wants a say.
Ainge did not rule it out. He said he views the players as “partners.”
“In our situation right now, if there’s been a particular player that has an association of some sort with a specific coach, I absolutely would be mistaken if I’m not going to spend time with that player,” Ainge said.