On Sunday afternoon, citing the need for the Utah Jazz to have a new voice in their organization, Quin Snyder stepped down as head coach. He had been at the helm for eight years. His 372 wins place him second in franchise history. He led the Jazz to the postseason in six of his eight seasons.
His resignation was hardly a surprise, especially when a hefty contract extension offered by the front office went uncommitted. At the same time, Snyder’s resignation means the end of an era for the Jazz. He was one of the best coaches in the league. He was a balanced blend of X’s and O’s, the ability to be a players’ coach and someone who was also a tactician in and before games.
The big question. What’s next for the Utah Jazz? How do the Jazz move forward in a search for a new head coach? This won’t be just any search. Indeed, there are a ton of complications. The Jazz are likely going to be aggressive on the trade market and could make a trade that affects the top of their roster. At the same time, sources tell The Athletic, the Jazz have no plans on relinquishing their status as a year in and year out playoff team in the Western Conference. And they have every intention of trying to continue their years-long pursuit of putting themselves in a position to compete for a deep playoff run, even a title run.
It makes the next month for Utah fascinating. Not only do Ryan Smith, Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik need to find a coach, but they also need to find one in what could be a time of significant change to a roster that’s been, by NBA standards, pretty stable over the last few years .
Seven names comprised the initial list of head-coaching possibilities, several league sources tell The Athletic.
The lone former head coach is Terry Stotts, who recently guided the Portland Trail Blazers to a Western Conference finals run in 2019. Alex Jensen, Snyder’s second in command with the Jazz, is on the list, as is former Jazz assistant and current New York Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant. Jensen and Bryant have extensive Utah ties and both played at the University of Utah for the late Rick Majerus. Jensen and Bryant are considered player development gurus.
Phoenix assistant Kevin Young and Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee are also two names who hold interest from the Jazz, according to league sources, as does Boston Celtics assistant Will Hardy. Adrian Griffin, an assistant for the Toronto Raptors, and father of lotto prospect AJ Griffin out of Duke, has also been mentioned.
Sources say that list could expand, and that, as of this minute, is a preliminary one. But the Jazz have a base from which to work when they sit down and ready themselves for the interview process. Internal franchise discussions, sources say, are expected to start as soon as Monday morning, but the Jazz are expected to take their time in the process.
Some of the qualifications the Jazz are looking for: They want the next head coach to command buy-in and respect from the roster, including star guard Donovan Mitchell. They want a coach who the Jazz feel is talented. Most of the assistants already have a terrific resume in terms of coaching tree pedigree. Most of the names on the list are known for their ability to develop talent and direct a defense.
Griffin is a name to watch, for the simple reason he has prior experience in a Jazz head-coaching search. He was a finalist in the search that ultimately landed Snyder in Utah, previously interviewed well with the Jazz and is considered one of the top head-coaching ready assistants on the market. Bryant is also someone to keep an eye on because he holds a close personal relationship to Mitchell, is terrific at player development and is someone whom Mitchell would instantly respect, which is important.
The balance of the front office will also be interesting. The Jazz want to take their time with the process, vet all candidates, do a thorough job interviewing and sit down and make an informed decision. What franchise in this position wouldn’t want to get all of that done?
At the same time, the NBA Draft is a little over two weeks away. The beginning of free agency is a little under a month away. The Jazz are entering the primary season for crafting their roster. Whoever their hire is, they certainly want to construct a roster that fits that hire.
And right now, the roster has a lot of questions without a lot of ready-made answers. League sources say multiple teams have called the Jazz to inquire about the trade availability of Mitchell, only to be given a firm no. The Jazz have made it clear they intend on building a roster around Mitchell. The only thing that could possibly pry Mitchell from the Jazz at this point is a monstrous offer. They simply don’t have the intention of trading him.
But nearly everyone else, including star center Rudy Gobert, has some sort of availability on the trade market. League sources suggest Gobert and small forward Bojan Bogdanovic have been two names that have garnered significant interest from teams. The Jazz expect to be a team that will be aggressive on the trade market.
That said, Utah’s variance is high. The Jazz could make multiple trades, involving high-level names on the roster. They could simply bring back the bulk of their roster. A lot depends on what offers roll in and if the Jazz think it makes sense to make a specific move.
What matters most is that the first domino has toppled for Utah. The Jazz needed clarity on which direction they needed to take. They needed to know if they had a head coach, or if they needed to look for one.
Now they know they need to look for one.
The offseason for the Utah Jazz is officially here.
(Top photo of Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Danny Ainge: Rob Gray / USA Today)