In Paris, Quin Snyder briefly gets back to work as coach
PARIS — Quin Snyder was back in his element. Sweats, sneakers, T-shirt. Evaluating players, sharing ideas, connecting with new people and reconnecting with some others.
He was coaching again. For two days, anyway.
It’s a start.
Snyder was the director of the Basketball Africa League Combine that happened Sunday and Monday in Paris. It was his first time doing anything serious around the game since making the decision last spring to end his tenure as coach of the Utah Jazz after eight seasons.
“This is a sabbatical for me. A personal sabbatical,” Snyder told The Associated Press. “I think it’s just healthy. It was a hard decision to come to, but this time is unique and at this point in my career, it’s something really important to me.”
Snyder made no effort to hide how much he was enjoying the two-day gig, which he took on because of his 20-year friendship with BAL President Amadou Gallo Fall. Joakim Noah and Dwyane Wade were among those sitting courtside for the games Monday, while Snyder watched from a corner before leading a clinic for coaches after the games were completed.
It’s a big week for the sport in Paris. The Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons have arrived in advance of their game in France’s capital on Thursday night. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was scheduled to arrive Tuesday and of course, there’s constant talk about Victor Wembanyama — the 19-year-old, 7-foot-3 French phenom who is widely expected to be No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. Odds are, Wembanyama will be there Thursday night for the game, watching guys who he’ll be playing against in about 10 months.
The Bulls landed in Paris on Monday, went right to the practice facility for a workout, and even they found themselves talking about Wembanyama.
“Hopefully, we get to meet him,” Bulls center Nikola Vucevic said.
And Snyder saw all the multi-cultural symmetry on Monday, standing in France, watching guys hoping for a chance to play in Africa, with Americans and Italians and Greeks and more in the gym watching and no shortage of languages getting spoken. Halfway around the world from home, he was right at home, since Snyder is comfortable just about anywhere. He’s spent time in Senegal with Fall, was part of a Russian league title as an assistant for CSKA Moscow a decade ago, coached in college, coached in the minors and coached in the NBA.
“Basketball builds bridges,” Snyder said. “I had a chance to come to the Euroleague, worked in Russia for a year with Ettore Messina. … You can learn so much from other people, other countries, different philosophies that from a practical basketball standpoint make you better. And then all the things that come with that personally, learning about cultures and people. It’s one of the beautiful things about sport.”
That’s why he accepted this assignment, why he spent most of a long flight to Paris going over his plans, why he worked so hard on what would be about 45 minutes leading a clinic. The game has given him a ton, so he gave a little bit back this week.
And he needed a break. Known for how hard he works — “does the guy sleep?” former Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell once asked, and was serious when he asked it — Snyder stepped down in June after leading the Jazz to six consecutive playoff appearances. He was an NBA coach of the year finalist in 2020-21, won nearly 60% of his games with the franchise and is one of only two coaches to end their tenures in Utah with a winning record. Jerry Sloan is the other.
It was time for a change. The Jazz traded Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to start reimagining their roster, Will Hardy — who was one of the coaches-in-waiting hot names in the league — took over in Utah and Snyder has enjoyed uninterrupted family time for the first time in forever.
It was not a retirement. Snyder will coach again. When, nobody knows, not even him. But the last two days reminded him how much he needs to be on the floor, talking ball with somebody.
“Hopefully,” Snyder said, “I’ll have the opportunity to do that again.”