Charismatic and exuding charm in a face of something he must’ve found perplexing, Quin Snyder smiled and, ever the lawyer, pleaded his case.
Speaking to a group of reporters at Monday’s annual Utah Jazz media day event at the Zions Bank Basketball Center, the first-year head coach was asked about being a “savior” for a franchise that struggled mightily last season.
If the 47-year-old, who holds a law degree from Duke, didn’t appreciate the question, he certainly didn’t show it. Instead, he responded like a seasoned statesman.
The question: “You’ve promised a lot, you promised player development, you promised parts of different systems you’ve worked with (as an assistant coach with) other teams. Do you see yourself as (a savior)?”
The response: “I think promise is a pretty, pretty strong word. You’ve thrown two things at me. One, that I’ve made a lot of promises and, two, that I’m a savior. I would reject both of those assumptions.”
Such exchanges are nothing new in these media day settings, especially one in which a new coach enters the picture. Media, fans and, shoot, even the players know changes are coming. The question is, what are they and how will they be implemented?
If Snyder’s deft ability to handle a thorny give-and-take is any indication, the man not only enjoys a good challenge, he excels at them.
It’s almost impossible to imagine the Jazz flipping their 25-win 2013-14 season into something spectacular this year. At least not in terms of a playoff run within the super-deep Western Conference.
But general manager Dennis Lindsey has long had a detailed plan and Snyder is dynamic enough to get his team to buy into the franchise’s team-first concept.
“We want to be unselfish, we want to play with the pass, we want to work – we’ve talked about the development (of individual players),” Snyder said. “We want to focus on that. We want to work to get better every day. How quickly we get better, it’s hard to say. I think the biggest thing would be for us to be an unselfish team.”
Now, let’s not pretend the Snyder’s team will be the first group in the history of the NBA to ever set its sights on total selflessness. Heck, they won’t even be the first Jazz team to attempt it.
Teamwork has long been the franchise’s watchword.
So, the biggest change Snyder wants to make is to have his guys become even more team oriented? Good. How will he make that happen? Well, that remains to be seen.
The NBA is a superstar league, driven by the megawatt names like LeBron, Kobe, Durant, Howard, Carmelo and Chris Paul. If he’s going to make his all-for-one-and-one-for-all ideas work, Snyder is going to have to really sell it to his players.
“Absolutely, it’s a challenge to subordinate yourself to the group,” he said. “Most of the feedback we get is individualized. That said, it’s unbelievably rewarding (to have success as a team).”
Snyder admits it will take having some early success to help his players feel that reward. Once they experience the joy of success through teamwork, they’re more likely to buy in with a greater commitment.
“The best teams do it, right? In any sport the best teams are the ones where guys have figured it out,” he said. “Sometimes they figure it out a little later when they’ve want a championship. But there’s a long time until ‘later’ with our group. We don’t want to have to wait that long.”
Snyder will get no objection here, none.
The Jazz are still relatively young, although they can no longer be characterized as inexperienced. With a new coach in place and Lindsey’s plan progressing along, they won’t be expected to win immediately.
But eventually, they will; and if Snyder can’t get them to embrace that team-first concept, even he won’t be able to charm his way out of the hot seat.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo