SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder keeps a detailed journal about his team. He uses it to chronicle what he says to the team and to jot down more of the “big picture things.” Looking through it now, it’s easy to see one thing.
“Last year was about discovery,” Snyder said.
Both for Snyder and for his players.
How does Bojan Bogdanovic like to play? How will Mike Conley run the offense? Where does Jordan Clarkson like to get his shots from? How do Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and the like fit in with the new players? Some of those questions took a while to answer.
“You’re figuring out how guys can connect with one another, and how you can help them be comfortable,” Snyder said.
Snyder coaches people, not players. He’s got one of the best basketball minds in the NBA. He knows what each player can bring to a team just based on their skillset, long before they get to the court. But there’s a human element to it all, too. Last season was spent building relationships and adjusting to players’ habits. It was a year spent learning — and talking.
“When he’s open and telling you what he’s going to do here, you know that’s gonna help somebody else or what’s going to help you,” Jordan Clarkson said. “You know we all depend on each other. And he’s open with it. Him having open dialogue with us this is, it’s just a great thing.”
For an example of that open dialogue, let’s turn to Ingles, who is entering his seventh season under Snyder.
“Joe’s yelled at me probably more than I’ve yelled at him, at least in the last two years,” Snyder said, laughing. “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.”
The Jazz head coach is open and he is honest — that’s partially why Derrick Favors proclaimed: “I wanted to come back and I wanted to play for Coach Quin. He’s like my favorite coach in the world right now.”
But that type of trust takes some time to build. Favors was under Snyder for five seasons. Conley, Bogdanovic and Clarkson are starting their second.
“It’s like the friend that you don’t see for a while, you pick right up with certain people and it’s like you never miss a beat,” Snyder said. “But you have to get to know somebody really well to have that happen.”
He pointed to his relationship with Conley as an example of one that’s grown over time.
“So I think for Mike and myself, we always communicated, but we had to get to know each other. And that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a good relationship, it was really the opposite. In my case, I was wanting to help him make the transition, make the adjustments that he needed to make with our team.”
Whatever Snyder did, worked.
Before the NBA season restarted in July, Snyder said he felt he made a mistake in preparing the 2019-20 team. He stated he coached as if he was leading a young team — since it was many of the players’ first camp in Utah — not a veteran squad. That wasn’t the right call, he admitted.
“We had a bunch of conversations through the summer about how we can change it or modify things to make it flow better,” Conley said.
Those ideas featured certain drills the team could run. And when Conley practiced for the first time in training camp, he quickly discovered Snyder had listened. Before the start of a drill, Snyder pulled the point guard aside and said, “This is yours.”
“You have an understanding of one another, and I think it allows you to rely on them even more,” Snyder said. “Players can always teach you. And having those relationships makes it easier for both players and coaches. I think it lets you adapt even more.”
Last season was about discovery. We’ll soon see what exactly was found.
“We’re pretty confident and comfortable in the style we want to play on both ends of the floor,” Ingles said. “Without making predictions, I’m confident we’ll be able to start off playing well and aggressively in the way we want to play.”