The Utah Jazz made two big offseason moves: re-signing Jordan Clarkson and bringing back Derrick Favors. Both players could have made more money playing elsewhere, could have signed-short term contracts and they had options.
There are a lot of reasons that Clarkson and Favors decided to stick with the Jazz on long-term deals, but one of the biggest reasons is the team’s head coach.
Heading into his seventh year at the helm of the Utah Jazz, Quin Snyder is still a mystery to a lot of fans. He’s a pretty private person and doesn’t share many intimate details about his life away from the court with those on the outside. But his players see a different side of him.
Snyder’s coaching philosophy earns respect from Jazz players
Vulnerability and openness are at the heart of how Snyder operates as a coach.
It can be hard to imagine that’s the case if you’re only used to seeing his to-the-point post-game comments, or him fume on the sidelines, or aggressively apply lip balm. It can be hard to imagine that’s the case even when you interview him regularly, but the Jazz players know it to be true.
“Sometimes you’re not even talking about basketball, we’re just talking about life, we’re talking about experiences that we’ve had,” Clarkson said. “Having that with a coach and him being that open with us, it’s very rare ... it goes a long way, especially with the players.”
Communication is what Snyder points to as the most crucial piece in being able to gain the trust of his players.
It’s not about just how or what you communicate, but the willingness to be right and wrong and communicate through good times and bad. Building trust through communication and then experiencing the joys and sorrows of basketball is what Snyder calls a “special part of the job” and is a reminder of why he loves being a coach.
“I’m just a believer in his coaching style,” Favors said. “The leadership he shows as a coach. He’s a player’s coach. He communicates with you. I just love him. That was one of the main reasons why I decided to come back was because of him.”
It’s not all sunshine and roses though. Snyder definitely comes with thorns.
He can be very hard on his players. He’s passionate, he snaps, he yells, he coaches hard and has very high expectations.
Snyder said he feels lucky that he has as a young star like Donovan Mitchell, who he can coach hard without fracturing the relationship. He said that he’s coached Rudy Gobert “harder than any superstar out there,” and that he’s yelled at Joe Ingles so many times that the roles have now become reversed.
“Joe’s yelled at me probably more than I’ve yelled at him, at least in the last two years,” Snyder said with a laugh. “He didn’t yell at me when he first got here, but now he yells at me. But I think all that stuff’s healthy.”
When Bojan Bogdanovic was added to the Jazz roster last year, Snyder remembers catching himself after barking a few times at the Croatian player and thinking maybe he’d gone too far. But then he said he remembered that Bogdanovic had once been under the tutelage of Zeljko Obradovic, a notoriously tough Serbian coach, so he figured the Jazz’s newest addition could handle the heat.
“He was in Europe as well so he knows how to coach hard and how to be hard with the players,” Bogdanovic said of Snyder, with a smile. “He knows how to talk to the players and to get them involved. Everybody, even those players that are not playing. They really love him and they’re really happy with the way he’s coaching them, so imagine how we feel, the guys that are playing the huge minutes.”
In fact, none of the Jazz players seem offended or put off by Snyder’s intensity, which is a testament to the mutual respect that’s developed.
“If players respect you as a coach and you’ve put the time in, watching them play, studying, you’ve invested time with them, it allows them to hear the things that you’re saying even when they may be hard,” Snyder said.
Creating an environment where players are willing to take criticism and appreciate honesty without it bringing them down is part of the coaching culture that Snyder has tried to build with the Jazz.
In order to create that environment there have to be close relationships and so Snyder has empowered his entire coaching staff to have that same level of open communication with the players.
When Mitchell was asked about his relationship with Johnnie Bryant, an assistant coach who recently took a job with the New York Knicks and with whom Mitchell worked closely with since he entered the league, he noted the honesty with which Bryant approached his job.
“There are times where, you know, I take bad shots,” Mitchell said. “Being able to hear his honesty and let me know that it’s a bad shot, more than my teammates would ... I think that’s where our relationship really has accelerated.”
Snyder said that assistant Lamar Skeeter has the same relationship with Mike Conley, Alex Jensen has the same kind of rapport with Gobert, and many of the Jazz players have reported feeling the same way about Snyder.
“Just him having open dialogue with us is a great thing that you can’t just teach any coach in the league,” Clarkson said. “I think he’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”
Snyder emphasizes trust as key to coaching success with the Jazz
For Snyder, the bottom line is that coaching requires a lot of trust from everyone involved. He’s going to make mistakes and so will the players, but if they’re open with each other and approach their relationships with respect then there’s always going to be a foundation to build upon.
“Sometimes you’re saying things that you know are hard to hear and sometimes you’re wrong and you find out later, but I think it’s being able to be real with each other,” Snyder said. “I guess it’s kind of a philosophical question on some level. Being willing to see the best in your players and to trying to empower them to be willing to make mistakes, and to try to see things in them that can help them get better and grow. Usually when you’re able to do that guys reward you, and reward that confidence you have in them.”
Snyder has been rewarded time and time again as a coach and his players have shown that his approach to coaching is not something that goes unnoticed. After all, it’s one of the main reasons that Clarkson and Favors are in Jazz uniforms once again.