There are few if any (Greg Popovich doesn’t count) coaches in the NBA that know more basketball than Quin Snyder. The Utah Jazz coach was just named the Western Conference Coach of the Month for December and January, leading the Jazz to a 15-5 record with 11 consecutive wins. The Jazz have been playing great team basketball and are one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season, currently occupying the 2nd position in a crowded Western Conference. Snyder has implemented very efficient systems on both sides of the floor, which in return make the Jazz the only team in the league that is in top 6 in both offensive and defensive ratings. It seems that Snyder has been with the Jazz for a long time waiting for the right group of guys to settle down in Salt Lake City. Even though he hasn’t had big results so far (apart from being the head coach with the most drip), Snyder has been widely regarded as one of the most innovative coaches in the NBA. Let’s see what makes him so special.
A rarity among coaches, Quin Snyder started coaching at a very young age. After playing 4 years at Duke, Snyder went undrafted in the 1989 NBA Draft so he came back to school to further his education. During that time he even worked for the Clippers bench, but ultimately became Coach K’s full time assistant at Duke. In 1999, he finally got his own team to coach, the Missouri Tigers, leading them to four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in his 7 years there. His first experience in the NBA was coaching the Spurs D-league team, where he picked up a lot of basketball philosophy from Popovich, and has after been an assistant to the legendary Doug Collins (see The Last Dance), and Mike Budenholzer (another Popovich disciple). He even spent a year in Europe as an assistant at CSKA Moscow. Learning from all those years spent as an assistant coach, he absorbed the right brand of playing basketball which he brought to the Jazz in 2014. Don’t ever think the role of an assistant coach is insignificant!
Over the recent years, Snyder has influenced his teams to play the brand of basketball similar to the Spurs. Extra passes, hitting a guy that is open, unselfish basketball are all things that the Jazz emphasize every time they step out on the court. This season, Snyder has implemented an offensive scheme that is almost impossible to guard. He surrounds Gobert with 4 shooters and puts him in a pick and roll with Conley, Mitchell or Ingles. The help defense can’t cut off the roll of the big Frenchman and if they do, there is usually a wide open shot from three as a result. It has certainly worked. Jazz are 4th in the league in offensive rating, lead the league in three-point attempts, and are third in three-point percentage at almost 40%. Snyder puts his opponents in an uncomfortable situation where they have to choose whether they want to give up an easy roll, or try to scramble to prevent wide open threes. He is also known for his out of timeout plays. Snyder typically uses his main option as a screener to deceive the defenses and then set up a screen to get him an open look. The Jazz have developed numerous counters to these type of plays in late game situations.
While we are talking about Snyder’s offensive sets, we have to mention his attack on the zone. Modern emergence of zone defense in the NBA, especially Heat’s one from last season, forced coaches around the league to adjust and have prepared sets to minimize its impact. Quin Snyder is definitely the most prepared one. When attacking a 2-3 zone, the Jazz start from the top and have two screens set on the inside of the top two defenders. Conley or Mitchel proceed to the free-throw line, from where they can either take an easy pull up jumper, or pass for an open three. They have also used a lot of spread pick and rolls last year to pull in the second top defender and enable open shots for the two players that are on the other side of the court. It is safe to say that teams rarely try the zone against the Jazz anymore.
Apart from his offensive genius, Quin Snyder is known as one of the best motivators. Part of the Jazz’s defensive success is that they have Rudy Gobert, but part of it is that Snyder always demands his teams play with heart and leave everything on the court. He also installed a pretty good drop coverage system on pick and rolls, maximizing Gobert’s presence on the defensive end. That’s just what he does. He pulls out the max from his players, because he is leading by example and is totally invested in the team. Just listen to the video below; this is a guy who has basketball flowing through his veins.
Photo: David Zalubowski/The Associated Press