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Brad Rock: New Jazz coach Quin Snyder takes best approach — by keeping it low key

SALT LAKE CITY — To the Jazz’s credit, they didn’t overdo the hyperbole at Quin Snyder’s introductory press conference on Saturday. Nobody went out of his way to say the team soon expects to be playing for championships. There was just passing mention of playoffs, which was good considering the team finished 24 games out of the hunt.

So it was a nice start. Seriously. All too often these things turn into blather fests and it goes downhill from there. They said they got the right man. Both management and Snyder said they felt fortunate. But nobody said they were going to overtake the San Antonio Spurs.

If one thing can be surmised from the early moments of the Snyder era, it’s that he expects to first do the work. The talk can follow. Thus, Saturday’s event was a rather quiet but optimistic affair. General manager Dennis Lindsey noted that when they both worked for the Spurs organization, he had been asked by general manager R.C. Buford what he thought of Snyder coaching the Developmental League Austin Toros.

“I said ‘R.C., I’m skeptical,’” Lindsey recalled. “Quin, the background, the pedigree, the education relative to the D-League — I spoke out of ignorance relative to Quin and understanding the D-League.”

Snyder drew laughter after being asked about the advantages of having previously worked in the same organization as Lindsey.

“Well, he said he didn’t think I was any good,” Snyder said.

Beyond that, they all mostly stuck to the business of introductions. The coach wore a dark suit, light blue shirt, and a muted green and blue striped necktie, augmented by a small Jazz lapel pin. He also had that trademark untamable lock of hair falling on his forehead, which gives him the perpetual college boy look, even though he’s 47.

But everyone on the management team hit the talking points about improving the league’s worst defense, generating offense and developing a “culture of winning.” They went through the mandatory we-were-made-for-each-other rhetoric. Curiously, they didn’t get asked much about expectations. So afterward, in a smaller group, I inquired how far the Jazz are from the playoffs, as constituted.

To his credit, Snyder didn’t call them a talented young team with a limitless future. He said, “You know, it’s hard to give specifics. I think (it’s) what I mentioned before about building an identity and not skipping stops in the process, and trying to do something that will last, where you can become a playoff team and become a playoff team for a long time.”

In other words, we’ll see.

A few minutes later I asked about the organization’s ability to attract free agents. His response: “I mean, in a manner of speaking, I was a free agent.”

He went on to applaud the Jazz ownership’s commitment, the practice facilities, and the tradition of loyalty, saying Utah is “an attractive place.”

Maybe not LeBron James attractive, but you get the idea.

Snyder was drawn because he liked the Miller family, Lindsey and the state. His wife Amy briefly attended Utah State to study special education. In the last seven years, she said, they have dealt with six moves, three children (she’s expecting their third in October) work on her Ph.D., and six jobs, so settling down with a reported three-year deal is a relief.

“For me, I mean, you look at all the NBA cities, this is one of my top three,” she said. “You’ve got the outdoors, it’s an outdoor playground. You have hiking, fishing, skiing ... ”

Unfortunately, you also have a team that lost 57 games.

Still, Snyder didn’t overdo the sales pitch. He knows the Jazz have a long way to go. A noted preparation fanatic, he spoke of both improving the offense and changing the league’s worst defense through trust and attention to details.

“I’m a little nervous, to be honest with you, and I think that’s OK,” he said. “It’s OK because it's that important to me.”

Nervous is the only honest place the Jazz can be at the moment.

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