MIAMI (AP) — The Associated Press will periodically look at the changing landscape of the NBA during the season from varied perspectives: A player’s viewpoint, from the bench, and from the business side. In this installment, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder provides an inside look.
Quin Snyder looks the same now as he did during his Duke playing days in the 1980s, having remained lean and appearing like he could still go 5-on-5 if so inclined.
He’s fit as can be.
But these days, he just looks exhausted.
Such is the reality for an NBA coach, particularly a first-year one in the early phases of rebuilding a franchise. Days are long, days off are nonexistent, and there are constant reminders that no matter how meticulous the practice plan, every issue won’t be solved between one game and the next.
This has been the biggest realization from the opening portion of Snyder’s first season as coach of the Utah Jazz.
“There’s even more teaching than I probably anticipated on the front end,” Snyder said. “Teaching our entire group what it is, and when I say teaching I mean even our staff, getting them to understand what it is I want. That process and the urgency you feel as a coach to do that … there’s always something more you want to touch, review, get in, address and there literally is not enough time.”
Snyder is one of four rookie coaches in the NBA right now, and all four have been dealt distinctly different hands. At Golden State, Steve Kerr has a team that’s already put together a 16-game winning streak and looks like a title contender. At Cleveland, David Blatt has the world’s best player in LeBron James and still has seen inconsistent results. At New York, Derek Fisher has a team that’s plummeted to near the bottom of the dreadful Eastern Conference.
When Snyder sat down with the AP in Miami, he was tired — and with good reason.
The Jazz played at New Orleans on Tuesday, then came right back to beat the Heat in Miami on Wednesday. And nonetheless, on Thursday morning the Jazz were back on the practice floor at their downtown hotel for a workout and film session before flying to Orlando.
“There’s always something to work on,” said Snyder, whose Jazz have won just seven times in the season’s first 26 games.
He has already matched wits with his fellow rookie coaches, beating the Cavaliers and the Knicks. But he’s not comparing himself to them.
“I’ve looked for comps of other teams that are at a point and a place where we want to be,” Snyder said. “Whether that be style of play, execution, demeanor, connectivity, all the traits to me that make up a program and the type of program that we want, the fiber, the values. That’s where most of my attention has gone.”
For their part, his rookie colleagues agree with Snyder: Finding enough time to get everything done is daunting.
“I had a lot of thoughts coming in,” Kerr said. “Things I wanted to practice every day. All of a sudden, the season starts and you have to have a day off physically for the guys to rest, then the next day you’ve got a game and you’ve got to go over the game plan for the other team. … You’ve got to find time for everything, and it’s tricky.”
Added Fisher: “I don’t know if there’s anything that strikes me as easier than I thought it would be. It’s a demanding job.”
Blatt, a longtime coach overseas before coming to the NBA, said it’s a harsh learning process.
“There is a dynamic of what the schedule does to you, and how you go about trying to manage that in the best possible way,” he said. “The NBA is a different animal.”
Snyder knows the reality.
The Jazz are basically out of the playoff picture already in the absolutely loaded Western Conference, and some of the players in his young group are probably experiencing some of the toughest stretches of their basketball lives.
He gets angry, frustrated, disappointed, all the normal emotions that accompany losing.
But as coach, he sees himself as the official mood-setter for his team, and that’s why he doesn’t stay down for long.
“It’s not a great year to be rebuilding,” Snyder said. “One of the things that’s challenging, your wins and losses are one way of evaluating success and that’s obvious. Regardless if you’re feeling that your team is improving, when you lose X games in a row, that can be a real impediment to growth. The resilience that is necessary to continue to commit and invest when you don’t have the juice that comes from a win, it becomes hard.”
That’s the challenge he’s embracing.
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