MEMPHIS — Becoming an NBA head coach is not an easy task. Ask almost anyone who has been fortunate enough to be one for any length of time and they will tell you it often takes years to attain such a position, and keeping it is even harder. With 30 teams in the league, the competition is fierce and the qualifications typically very high for any individual in the candidate pool.

For those lucky enough to be in the coaching fraternity, there is generally a mutual respect and camaraderie that exists among those who make it. Such is the case with Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and Taylor Jenkins, the first-year head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies.

The two men squared off against each other for the first time Friday night in Memphis.

Having met when both were paying their dues in the NBA Development League (now the NBA G League), they came to know and respect each other through their mutual love and affinity for coaching basketball.

“He’s talented, dedicated and passionate. I could go on with adjectives or superlatives to describe about him. We had a unique experience together, and I think we formed a unique bond. It was his decision to really pursue coaching.” — Quin Snyder, on Taylor Jenkins

Speaking before the Jazz-Grizzlies game, Snyder described how a young Jenkins — who would become his protégé — captured his attention as a smart, ambitious basketball junkie who had a knack for the game.

“He’s talented, dedicated and passionate. I could go on with adjectives or superlatives to describe about him. We had a unique experience together, and I think we formed a unique bond. It was his decision to really pursue coaching,” Snyder said. “He didn’t really know where that would go. Similar to when I took the job in Austin as the (Toros) head coach (from 2007-2010), he did the same thing as an assistant (from 2008-2013).”

“We spent a lot of hours together, whether it was at the coffee shop or in the airport just talking basketball,” Snyder added. “He probably helped me more than he realizes. I think it was a time for me in my career where having someone that was as loyal and supportive was really important.”

Snyder recalled that it was Jenkins’ first year coaching, but he noticed that his young assistant had an acumen for the game.

“We would bounce ideas off of each other and just really enjoy talking basketball. We became close and then we were fortunate enough to both have an opportunity to kind of get reunited so to speak (as assistants with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013-2014),” he said. “I’ve just enjoyed watching him grow and progress. He’s not only ready to be a head coach, but I think he is going to be tremendously successful. He’s always had a presence about him.”

Snyder joked that, knowing how hard getting into the profession could be, he briefly tried to talk Jenkins out of coaching for about 10 minutes, but it became clear ‘that it wasn’t going to happen.”

“I think that’s part of who Taylor is, too. He is unbelievably prepared and had thought through everything. When I realized that, I got excited because I knew that I had a young talented coach that was going to work his tail off, and like I said, be loyal and supportive of me,” Snyder explained. “I learned a lot from him. I think that’s always the case if you’re open to it. In some ways, the fact that he was starting his career and, in some ways, I was re-starting my career (after a stint as head coach at Missouri from 1999-2006).”

Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins watches from the sideline during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against Utah Jazz on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. | Karen Pulfer Focht, AP

Snyder recalled driving down to San Antonio together and going to the Golden Creek Coffee Shop where they talked a lot. Snyder asked Jenkins to take notes and when he got the notes back, “it always came back to me sounding a lot more organized and clear than what I said,” he joked.

Noting that Jenkins, 35, is today the second-youngest head coach in the league, someone who didn’t know him wouldn’t necessarily know his age because of different types of experiences he has had during his relatively short tenure in coaching.

“You can garner experience; it’s like dog years. You can have experiences that help you grow in significant ways in a short period of time,” Snyder said. “I think that’s prepared him in a way that is unique. Knowing him, he is unbelievably confident in his preparation. He is intuitive enough and humble enough that if he thinks he is ready, (then) he is ready.

“I think very highly of him obviously and for a lot of reasons. He was a friend to me in a way that was unique,” Snyder added. “That’s the neat thing about this business; that when you work with somebody, you have an opportunity to be around them a lot and I have a tremendous respect for him.

“I’m really excited that he has got this opportunity and there is no doubt in my mind that he is going to be really successful.”

Meanwhile, asked what it would be like to coach against his former mentor, Jenkins was effusive in his praise for Snyder and how he helped launch his career in the coaching profession.

“I learned so much from Coach Snyder. He was my first official head coach way back in the D-League. I learned so much from him. Everything from the art of basketball to player development to player relationships and the love of the game,” Jenkins said. “I got to firsthand see his passion for the game of basketball. That just lined up very well with how much I like basketball.”

“To have him be someone that took me under his wing and guided me on and off the floor. He stayed in touch with me. He has been the biggest supporter of mine year in and year out,” he added.

Asked if he felt any pressure to have success against one of his former colleagues, Jenkins said, “None whatsoever.”

“I just try to go out and try to get better myself every single day. I always love competing against guys I have learned form and coached with and to coach against them,” Jenkins said. “It is just a great opportunity to go out there and try to get better. Hopefully I continue to grow and take the things I learned from them and apply it to myself.”

On this night the protégé would win round one as the Grizzlies topped the Jazz 107-106. For Snyder and the Jazz, their next chance for retribution is just a short time away when Memphis visits Utah on Nov. 29.