SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Associated Press will periodically look at the changing landscape of the NBA during the upcoming season from varied perspectives: A player’s viewpoint, from the bench, and from the business side. An interview with first-year Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder is the second installment of the series:
Quin Snyder needed two hands to count all the places he’s called home of late.
Austin, to Philadelphia, to Los Angeles, to Moscow, to Atlanta and now to Salt Lake City. That’s six stops in a span of about four years, meaning he and his wife are pretty good at packing.
But a relaxed Snyder, wearing a Jazz polo shirt sitting in a conference room overlooking the team’s practice court, looks as if he’s settling in nicely in his latest surroundings.
“Every move has made sense,” Snyder said.
Maybe none more than this one. His nomadic days might be on hold for a while.
Snyder is now a rookie head coach in the NBA, accepting the challenge of leading a Utah franchise that once made playoff trips seem automatic back to the level of the NBA’s elite.
He is one of nine new coaches this season, one of four — New York’s Derek Fisher, Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Cleveland’s David Blatt are the others — to have a head coaching job in the NBA for the first time. And Snyder’s job is clearly the most daunting of that bunch, particularly in a loaded Western Conference.
“It’s going to be hard,” said Snyder, an assistant in Atlanta last season. “But we need to define our success maybe on different terms. Not to say that we’re not keeping track of wins and losses; I think that will probably happen no matter what. But if we can figure out maybe what leads to wins or more wins or what do we need to avoid and how best for us to grow … if we go by Al Davis’ ‘Just win, baby,’ it’ll probably be a harder year than if we define it on our terms.”
The Jazz haven’t won a playoff game since 2010, and last season’s 25-57 record was the team’s worst in more than three decades.
But Snyder, who spent the summer traveling around to get to know many of his new Jazz players in an effort to build the personal relationships he’ll need to succeed, has his own way of embracing the challenge. When Utah opens the season Wednesday night, it will be the first time since 1988 that neither Jerry Sloan nor Tyrone Corbin — who played for Sloan — will be in charge on a Jazz sideline.
“A team is like art, almost,” Snyder said. “It’s living art. You’re trying to sculpt it. That metaphor always made some sense to me. Not that you couldn’t do that in another vocation, but it was something I’d already experienced as a player and early on in coaching I kind of felt it. It made you feel alive. Sometimes I felt less alive than others, but ultimately you kind of find your way back to it.”
His presence in Utah adds to a distinct air of change around the league. With all the new coaches, big-name players with new addresses and other changes, this year’s NBA looks more than a little different than the one that ended in San Antonio just four months ago.
“It certainly looks that way from my perspective,” Snyder said. “It’s a little bit harder for me because my vantage point has changed. There’s so many changes for me that are just associated with being in Utah as opposed to Atlanta. But even at our head coaches’ meetings, which I had never been a part of obviously, you could get a sense that the league was evolving.”
Snyder, who turns 48 next week, is arguably one of the brightest coaches in the league.
He double-majored in philosophy and political science while playing point guard at Duke, then eventually added a law degree and MBA from there to his collection. He also has studied under some good basketball professors.
Snyder played and worked for Mike Krzyzewski. He’s received firsthand instruction from Larry Brown, Gregg Popovich and Doug Collins. R.C. Buford, now the San Antonio general manager, once recruited Snyder to play at Kansas. At Duke, Snyder became teammates with future GMs Billy King and Danny Ferry.
He knows a who’s-who of the game.
“I’ve crossed paths with a lot of people,” Snyder said. “I’ve been pretty lucky.”
And he’s paid some big-time dues along the way, having toiled in both Russia and the D-League. He spent seven years at Missouri, where he went 128-96 and guided the Tigers to four NCAA tournaments.
So to call Snyder well-rounded would be a slight understatement. He has seen plenty.
Starting next week, when his next and biggest challenge begins, he’ll be seeing even more.
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