The last time Danny Ainge hired a head coach was in 2013, when he hired Brad Stevens to coach the Boston Celtics. Prior to that, his last hire had been in 2004 when he tasked Doc Rivers with leading the Celtics.
The point is, it’s been a while.
When Ainge hired both Rivers and Stevens, he had been heavily involved in scouting, was part of a broadcasting team, spent a lot of time on the road, he’d been in the game, so to speak. Now, as the Utah Jazz CEO of Basketball, the search for a head coach is going to have a different look.
“I’m in a position where I haven’t really been looking to the same extent for those coaches,” Ainge said Monday, as the Jazz bid farewell to Quin Snyder. “There’s a lot of names I know, that I’m familiar with in the coaching world, but this will be much different than the two previous (hires) and probably more thorough.”
Jazz owner Ryan Smith added that the team is in no hurry. There’s no need to make a quick decision because the Jazz want to be confident that they make the right decision.
Ainge echoed that sentiment when he spoke with David Locke on the Jazz’s “Take Note” podcast Wednesday, noting that assistant coach Alex Jensen, who is one of the candidates for the head coaching position, will be taking on offseason coaching duties during the search to fill the head coaching vacancy.
“We have a lot of staff that’s under contract that is getting an opportunity to do more,” Ainge said. “Alex is going to run our summer league and will run all the workouts for that and so I think we’re in really good shape right now. I think we can take our time and get this right.”
As for the type of coach the Jazz are looking for, well that isn’t as easy to define. The Jazz are reportedly casting a wide net that includes former NBA head coaches, coaches that have worked with the Jazz in associate capacities, as well as NBA assistant coaches from around the league.
In short, the Jazz are looking for someone that is going to be detail-oriented but also able to command the respect of a locker room. The Jazz are going to need someone that can manage personalities and put together a coaching staff that will be on the same page and hungry to improve.
“Especially on an NBA level, where there’s so much money and there’s big egos and big dreams ... it’s complex and you also have to be able to manage chaos,” Ainge said. “Everybody wants a beautifully run machine but my NBA experience tells me that most of the great players and most of the great teams I’ve been around are mostly chaos. ... You’re managing a lot of chaos and sometimes you have to focus on some of the chaos as opposed to just the basketball.”
The Jazz haven’t narrowed their search in terms of number of years of experience or an age range or to coaches that have specialized areas of knowledge, but Ainge did say that player input was going to be an important factor in the process.
While there is already familiarity with the players and Jensen, as well as candidate Johnnie Bryant — a former Jazz assistant who is close with Donovan Mitchell and is now a New York Knicks assistant — and Ainge said that familiarity and level of relationship was important, it isn’t the only motivating factor driving player inclusion.
“You have to sell them on what you’re doing, whatever it is — if you’re making a trade that they might not like you have to be able to sell why you’re doing it,” he said. “That’s just to get them in the right frame of mind so they can give that change an opportunity to succeed. But, I believe players are partners in this thing, too.”
Though Snyder only stepped down from his post on Sunday, the search for a new head coach is underway in earnest. The Jazz have reached out to multiple teams to request permission to interview potential candidates and the rumor mill is already swirling with who is leading the pack.
The only thing for certain right now is that this upcoming Jazz season is going to look a lot different than many of the previous ones.