SALT LAKE CITY — If newly hired Quin Snyder coaches as well as he conducts himself in interviews, with both the media and his new bosses, the Utah Jazz could be in for quite the promising future.
“Let me just say, first of all, that I'm incredibly honored to have this opportunity to coach the Jazz,” Snyder said after being introduced as the eighth coach in the franchise’s 40-year history. “This is a program with a great foundation.”
And one with great hopes for its new coach, who was hired Friday to replace Tyrone Corbin and take over a team that just endured a 25-57 season while beginning a rebuilding process.
“It's an exciting day in the Utah Jazz organization's history,” CEO Greg Miller said.
Fans and team employees listening in to the press conference had to be thrilled with what they heard from a law-degree-toting man who's eloquent and educated enough to work around multiple courts.
Snyder, who earned a double major, MBA and Juris Doctor law degree at Duke, shared interesting nuggets about his family’s connection with Utah, including his wife’s college studies at Utah State and a bus trip he took in high school from Washington to the U. to attend a team camp conducted by then-Ute coach Jerry Pimm.
“I know Salt Lake, what a great community it is, what a great family community it is,” said Snyder, whose wife is expecting a baby. “We're unbelievably excited to be here for a lot of reasons.”
The 47-year-old, who’s worked for four previous NBA teams in the past 22 years, expounded on his basketball philosophy and vision about “attention to detail,” winning with an up-tempo, creative offense, having a trusting group that plays unified on defense, developing players as individuals and as a group, and instilling more of his core concepts: being unselfish, competitive and accountable.
“This is a process, a building process. It’s one that I like,” Snyder said. “I think the fit is just terrific for me personally with Amy, myself and the organization.”
Snyder, hired over finalists Brad Jones (a potential assistant hire), Alvin Gentry and Adrian Griffin, responded to a wide variety of questions, including being asked about his past, which includes running into NCAA trouble while at Missouri from 1999-2006.
“I've faced some challenges in my life. Those challenges have helped me. I’ve been through some adversity and that adversity has made a better coach and it's made me a better person,” Snyder said.
“I feel like I persevered through some things and just tried to work hard and have been fortunate to have support from a lot of good people. Hopefully, this is the result from a lot of that hard work.”
Snyder showed gratitude for lessons learned from spending time being mentored by basketball legends, including Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, and international coaching guru Ettore Messina. He credited Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey. He’s also worked with well-respected coaches like Larry Brown, Doug Collins, Mike Brown and, most recently, Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks, and has held five other jobs in the past five years.
“I've had a chance to work for some of the best minds in basketball,” said Snyder, a Hawks assistant last season. “It's humbling to think that I've had a chance to be around those people.”
Even before saying all of the right things in his Utah media debut, Snyder made a big impression on the Millers in the past couple of weeks. He'd already won the Jazz GM over while they worked together in the San Antonio organization from 2007-10, Lindsey as an assistant general manager and Snyder as the head coach of the Spurs' D-League Austin Toros.
The Jazz coach search had advanced to the point where four finalists were invited to Greg Miller’s home for three-on-one interviews with the organization’s highest-ranking members when Snyder said something that impressed the team’s CEO.
“When a team plays defense together well, it’s an indication that they trust each other,” Snyder told Miller. “And when a team trusts each other, amazing things can happen.”
When a coach makes that kind of convincing sales pitch, he can get an amazing job opportunity, too.
“That,” Miller said, “really resonated with me.”
Snyder touched on that topic again Saturday, which makes sense considering the Jazz finished last in the NBA in team defense this past season.
“We'd like to have a defensive identity,” he said. “I think that that's an area where we can try to take a stand. It involves habits. It involves energy, effort, focus. But that's obviously something that we want to do.”
Snyder said he and Lindsey need to sit down and discuss who they’ll add to his coaching staff. He also has the task of getting to know his players on a personal and professional level, of getting caught up on draft preparations, and integrating himself into a new job and community while commuting back and forth from Atlanta, all while continuing to heal from a recent hip replacement surgery.
Snyder’s ready to embrace all of the incoming challenges.
“I love this game. It's been good to me. I've got a passion for it,” he said. “To get to do it for a living is a great opportunity.”
Like her son, Jazz owner Gail Miller said she was impressed with Snyder in the interview process. After welcoming him to the “Jazz family,” Miller pointed out that she appreciated his humility, his intelligence (academic and basketball-wise) and his desire to be the head coach that leads Utah to a championship.
“So, that’s what we’re looking for,” she said, smiling. “No pressure, Quin.”
In a soul-bearing moment later in the press conference, Snyder admitted he’s feeling some butterflies with his new position.
“I’m a little nervous, to be honest with you. And I think that’s OK,” Snyder said. “It’s OK because it’s that important to me and I’m just really happy to be here and be your coach.”
The feeling is obviously mutual.