“Started from the bottom now we’re here” has transformed into a cliche thanks in large part to the popularity of rapper, and known bandwagon driver, Drake’s hit song that features the lyric. For very few people does this saying actually apply. However, this phrase perfectly describes newly minted Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder‘s lengthy journey that features more twists and turns than a roller coaster.
At 47, Snyder takes over the Jazz at a relatively young age for a head coach. However, his countless years of experience at various levels of the game has given him a unique perspective, and an even more special story.
In 1999, Snyder took over as the University of Missouri coach, after spending six plus years as Coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s assistant at Duke University. Given the task of rebuilding a program, while still in his early thirties, Snyder hit the ground running.
Bringing a work ethic and unique eye for talent, he led Mizzou to four straight NCAA tournament appearances and an Elite Eight appearance in 2002. Snyder’s ability to relate to the players that he coached is what made him stand out. He made Mizzou an appealing destination to play basketball. Snyder was one of the first major college coaches to scour the junior college ranks to find guys who he could develop into contributors. The Mizzou job at the time was similar to what the Jazz position is now.
Coming off a 25-57 season, the Jazz possess the fifth pick in the upcoming draft and are looking for another superstar to work with Trey Burke. Just like Mizzou when Snyder took over, Utah does not possess the greatest collection of talent, but they have parts that, under the right head coach, could be key pieces to a playoff team.
Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors give Utah one of the most underrated frontcourts in all of the NBA and guard Alec Burks showed flashes of potential last season. It will be Snyder’s job to have these players tap into their full potential in order to put Utah back on the map for the extended future.
College coaches do not have a track record for jumping into a head coaching job and having sustainable success. Usually he has to accumulate some mileage as an NBA assistant in order to be given the reins to lead. This could be how Snyder’s messy exit from Mizzou was a blessing in disguise.
In 2006, Snyder hit rock bottom after having to resign from his post after NCAA conduct violations began to surface. From there he went to the place that is the epitome of second chances, the NBA D-League.
Throughout the course of his four years in the NBA farm system, coaching the Austin Toros, Snyder shifted his coaching focus. While implementing the same mentality that led to his resurrection of the Mizzou program, Snyder made the Toros into a powerhouse. In the process, he discovered that he had what it takes to coach professional players. Snyder showcased his ability to groom young players to fit a particular style of play in order for them to make an impact in the NBA.
The Toros, who are the affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs, have transformed into not just a team that is associated with their parent club, but one that is run exactly like them. Players that the Spurs send to Austin are conditioned to play the game exactly how San Antonio plays, so that they can make an immediate impact when they get the call up. This is all thanks to the ground work Snyder put into place.
After his success with the Toros, Snyder was an assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers, before coaching in Russia. In every one of the stops, Snyder implemented the skills he gained in Austin. As an assistant this past year for the Atlanta Hawks, Snyder used his ability to mold untapped talent to help players like Paul Millsap and Demarree Carroll reach an even greater level of production.
That is exactly what the Jazz should expect from Snyder. His history of squeezing the best out of his players is just what Utah needs during this state of transition. Just like their new head coach, the team hopes to start from the bottom, and soon reach the top.