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Coach Snyder leaves lasting impression on ex-Jazz players in Atlanta

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That was the one he was always trying to get me to work on. It’s a little ironic that the first time I shoot it, it’s tonight. – Kyle Korver, on working with Quin Snyder in Atlanta

NEW YORK — The irony was humorous to Kyle Korver.

Quin Snyder might’ve laughed, too, if it hadn’t just contributed to the Utah Jazz’s 100-97 loss at Atlanta on Wednesday night.

Someday maybe.

Moments after hitting a critical 3-pointer to put his Hawks up by one during a game-ending 11-0 run, Korver chuckled about how the play was one he and Snyder, an Atlanta assistant in 2013-14, worked on for that same exact shot last season.

When he’s able to square up to the basket and release in rhythm, the former Jazz shooting guard is one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in NBA history.

This shot, though, was a bit out of his usual rhythm. He caught it, took a quick step back “to get the lay of the land,” pulled up and released a deep, high-arching shot over the extended arms of 6-foot-10 Derrick Favors.

Swish.

Hawks 98, Jazz 97 with just under a minute remaining.

“That was the one he was always trying to get me to work on,” Korver said after his 17-point, 10-rebound effort. “It’s a little ironic that the first time I shoot it, it’s tonight.”

It was indeed quite the coincidence that Korver tossed in that go-ahead dagger on a day when Snyder returned to Atlanta to an abundance of handshakes and compliments, including from the three former Utah players on the Hawks squad.

“I’m really happy for him, first of all. He’s a great guy,” Korver said Wednesday morning when the topic of his former coach came up after shootaround. “He’s a really interesting basketball mind. I really enjoyed working with him last year. He really taught me a lot.”

Too much maybe, considering Wednesday’s turn of events.

Korver and Snyder became basketball bosom buddies in their short time together in Atlanta. They spent endless hours working on Korver’s release, going over pick-and-roll action, chatting about hoops, and brainstorming basketball plays.

Snyder, whose Jazz play New York at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, was impressed a player mostly known for being a 3-point specialist would be so open to learning in his early 30s.

“I think he’s got a really open mind, which is an interesting contrast to someone who’s able to be so focused in one area,” Snyder said of Korver, who played for Utah from 2007-10. “A lot of people will be content just (to say), ‘Hey, this is what I am.’ ”

Snyder appreciated that Korver took it as a challenge to figure out how to play pick-and-rolls with one or two dribbles, and to acquire an effective floater, among other “little things” that make such a drastic difference.

“He makes everything creative and interesting,” Snyder said.

Incidentally, 33-year-old Korver was the one who gave the well-traveled, 48-year-old coach that compliment.

“It’s always fun," he said, "when you walk in and you know he's on like his sixth cup of coffee that morning and he’s just like got all of these thoughts."

Korver liked that Snyder bounced around ideas he picked up from as far away as Europe.

“As the assistant, he got to be even more extreme,” Korver said, chuckling. “He got to come up with (plays) like, ‘What if we did the back screen into the dribble handoff into the pin-down?’

“He’d come up with this wild stuff,” the NBA sharpshooter continued. “A lot of it as a player, it just helps you think about possibilities and gets you excited. And a lot of that just helps you grow more than anything. He’s a really good basketball mind.”

While player development of young players is a well-known forte of Snyder’s — and is one reason why the Jazz are so happy to have him on board with their youth movement — his ability to help Korver improve as a thirtysomething was a good example of how he can also teach old dogs new tricks.

“A lot of his stuff is just brand new and it’s fresh and it’s exciting,” said Korver, who’s eager to see what changes he makes to the Jazz offense. “And it’s fun to play. It makes you want to work harder.”

That should be good to hear from Jazz fans, who might be a bit sour on Korver after Wednesday. This quote might help give Utah hope, too.

“After you spend a certain amount of time on anything, it’s easy to kind of get pigeon-holed into a certain way of thinking,” Korver said. “Quin brought a whole new way of basketball thought for me. I think I felt like I got better last year, and a lot of that was because of him.”

Former Jazz power forward Paul Millsap became an All-Star in the Eastern Conference last year while being helped at times by Snyder in Atlanta. Before torching the Jazz for 30 points and 17 rebounds Wednesday, Millsap credited Snyder for making him think out of the box.

“I learned a lot from ‘Q’ over this past year. He’s very intelligent,” Millsap said. “He makes you think. A lot of stuff he says I don’t get until later that day. That’s how smart he is. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed him a lot. He helped me out a lot.”

Millsap says Snyder helped him improve his footwork, and the Atlanta star was grateful to have worked with somebody who worked with Kobe Bryant on similar techniques in Los Angeles.

“He’s one of the greatest minds,” Millsap said of Snyder, “so a lot of stuff that he taught me I take with me today.”

Millsap laughed when told that Snyder said his basketball knowledge was increased through conversations they had last season.

“I taught him some stuff on accident,” the humble 29-year-old from Louisiana Tech said. “His mind starts wondering and he starts thinking and he’ll come up with something.”

DeMarre Carroll, the other ex-Jazzman on the Hawks roster, also said footwork was the area in which Snyder helped him the most in the season after the small forward left Utah.

“Footwork, that’s his biggest thing — being in the right spot to be able to score the ball,” Carroll said. “I think that’s been really big and really helped me this year.”

Carroll also said Snyder emphasized good positioning and paying attention to details, which are things the former Duke player is trying to instill into his new team in Salt Lake City.

Carroll was bummed that a groin injury kept him out of Wednesday’s game — more because he would’ve loved to have played against Snyder than his old team.

“It’s one of those games that I really wanted to go out there and … especially play against Quin, make him a little mad,” Carroll said, smiling. “But at the same time I’m happy for him. I’m happy he’s in a good place.”

Leading up to Wednesday’s game, Millsap admitted it was kind of bizarre to watch a Jazz team resemble the Hawks (and the Spurs' system essentially) than the old Jazz. He said it’d be different to not see Utah “run autos,” which was the foundation for many offensive plays in Jerry Sloan’s system.

Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, who had a relationship with Snyder and Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey from their time in the San Antonio organization, agreed that the Jazz are shifting ways under his former assistant.

“Quin’s very innovative and doing a lot of his own things,” Budenholzer said. “We’ve all stolen some things from the old Jazz, too. There’s always a lot of stealing with us coaches.”

The Jazz, after all, weren’t apologetic after taking Snyder away from his assistant job in Atlanta to replace Tyrone Corbin in Utah.

Snyder will forever be thankful for his short but impactful stint in Atlanta.

“Really positive. I had a great experience here, learned a ton. I’m unbelievably appreciative of Bud and Danny (Ferry, Hawks GM),” Snyder said. “Bud helped me in so many ways. Players here helped me in so many ways. Just tons of positive and grateful thoughts and feelings.”

Snyder, in his first top-level head coaching gig after stops at Duke, Missouri, multiple NBA cities and CSKA Moscow, said there is one big reason why he has such a debt of gratitude for Budenholzer.

“He brought me back from Russia.”

He said that with love, of course.

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