I’ve only covered the Utah Jazz and Quin Snyder for three seasons, but in that time, it was easy to see that Snyder loved his job.
He gets emotional when he talks about coaching and how proud he is to be in a position to lead basketball players. After the final game of the Jazz’s 2022 playoff run, he made a point to say how much he loves his players and how proud he was, despite the fact they had been eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks.
So, when Snyder stepped down as head coach of the Jazz on Sunday, I believed what he said in a statement released by the team.
“At the core, and what drives me every day is our players and their passion for the game, their desire to constantly work to improve and their dedication to the team and the Jazz,” Snyder said.
“I strongly feel they need a new voice to continue to evolve. That’s it. No philosophical differences, no other reason. After eight years, I just feel it is time to move onward. I needed to take time to detach after the season and make sure this was the right decision.”
According to league sources, the Jazz offered Snyder an extension that would have made him one of the highest paid coaches in the NBA, so this wasn’t about money and this wasn’t about a situation that was too challenging.
Snyder took over after a 25-win 2013-14 season and didn’t see any challenge as too great.
Snyder started out the 2021-22 season with a healthy roster and some new faces coming off the most successful regular season in franchise history, and he had a spring in his step.
As the season wore on, however, the levity and joy seemed to dim. Snyder said in his statement Sunday that the Jazz need a new voice, and I think that became clear as the last few months unfolded.
It’s not clear who has the most powerful voice in the front office with Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik working together. While it’s fairly clear that Donovan Mitchell’s voice carries significant weight within the organization, the locker room was lacking a clear voice after the departures of Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles.
As tensions and pressure and expectations were all mounting, Snyder tried to remain strong for the team, but nearly all season, there seemed to be something missing.
It wasn’t just that things were difficult for the Jazz — Snyder loved walking through the coals with his team — it was something that wasn’t tangible, something difficult to pinpoint.
There’s no doubt that Jazz players have immense respect for Snyder. Many of them credit him with their success to this point. But in their final interviews after the playoffs, there was no resounding support from the players for Snyder.
They expressed their admiration and even said that they loved playing for Snyder, but many players ultimately said that coaching decisions are not up to them.
I’ve covered other teams where, in exit interviews, the players make it clear that they want their head coach to remain in his post.
That’s not what I saw from the Jazz players.
The Jazz brass clearly wanted to move forward with Snyder, but it was wise for him to take some time to decompress after the season and after his hip replacement surgery last month to ensure that he was making decisions for the right reasons.
If the Jazz need a new voice, that voice is going to require the strength and boldness and passion that Snyder brought to the table, but also add something different.
What the difference is will largely depend on what the Jazz front office decides to do, so the Jazz’s coaching search will likely include conversations about the immediate and distant future of the team.
If the Jazz are planning on making significant roster changes that are going to change the dynamic of the on-court product, that could change the type of coach that the Jazz are looking for.
Many names have been associated with the Jazz who could become early candidates for the open position.
Former Jazz assistant and current Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant, current Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts are all on the Jazz’s radar, but team sources have indicated that the search is going to be exhaustive and thorough, including other outside candidates.
As the June 23 NBA draft approaches, the Jazz won’t be pressured to make a decision on filling the head coaching vacancy before that date.
The Jazz don’t currently have a pick in the draft, but even if they deal their way in, the front office would be able to handle any team decisions before choosing a coach.
Since moving to Utah in 1979, the Jazz have only had five head coaches (Tom Nissalke, Frank Layden, Jerry Sloan, Ty Corbin and Snyder) and the team is unlikely to hire someone that they feel would only be around for a short time.
The next head coach of the Utah Jazz could end up being the coach of a run-it-back team, a team with slight tweaks, or even a team on the verge of a rebuild.
This is a not a job for the faint of heart. A strong and determined voice is necessary.