Mark Snider, the play by play man of the Idaho Stampede, interviewed Justin Zanik at halftime of the Idaho / Erie game last night. Zanik is the assistant general manager of the Utah Jazz (and the brother of Jeff Zanik, a big-wig at ASM sports, which represents Alec Burks and Trevor Booker), and as a result, this was a gem.
MS: Welcome back to Boise!
JZ: Thanks Mark, I appreciate it. It's always good to be here.
MS: The relationship between the Utah Jazz and the Idaho Stampede, in a lot of peoples' minds, was a no brainer given the history of the Jazz and their ownership group here in the Treasure Valley. The proximity didn't quite work out a few years ago, but when the opportunity arose to form that relationship earlier this year it seemed like Utah was enthusiastic about jumping in.
JZ: Absolutely. The history of The Miller Family and the different interests that we have up here in Boise along with a good mix of Jazz fans in Boise following our team in Utah - so it was a natural fit. And the Stampede business operations have been great to us. We've really started off to have a good relationship. So we're really happy about the relationship. And we'll see how we proceed here on the court.
MS: The Jazz used the D-League a little bit, but you now have a new head coach in Quin Synder who was a head coach in this league in Austin. You have a coach here in Boise who worked for a Houston team that was very active with the NBA Development league; you can see the weaving come together of a real close working relationship. How do you in Utah, down in Salt Lake, envision this relationship working out?
JZ: Well, we see it as a great resource for - and - another piece for our development for our young players. We consider members of the Stampede and the young members of the Jazz that may be assigned here that we are all on the same page as far as the development of our players. And then seeing where that grows. We have a young team in Utah, we have a young team here in Idaho. Those experiences and really both coaches staffs being connected in terms of how we teach, what kind of structure, what kind of culture that we're trying to build that it's replicated in both places.
MS: Dean Cooper in his first year as the Head Coach of the Stampede; what was it about Dean that Utah liked and pursued. I know he has a history with your General Manager in Salt Lake, so there's some history there with the Houston days. What is it about what Coach Cooper brings that makes him right for the Jazz organization here in Boise?
JZ: Well, there's a few things. Good question, Mark.
JZ (continued): Dean's an outstanding teacher. He's very meticulous and organized in terms of practice plans and development plans for our players - both in Utah and here in Idaho. He's an extension of Quin's staff. They've been in constant communication. Dean was with us for a good two months, and all summer, in Utah with our new Summer League program, and with Quin installing his new philosophies as well. And Dean as been there with him every step of the way so that what Quin's staff wants, and what we want here in Idaho is reflected with Dean. He's been outstanding so far.
MS: We've seen Toure' Murry assigned here for the first two games of the season. When you bring a player to Boise from the Utah roster what are you looking for?
JZ: So it's an individualized plan. Every player's different, of course. With Toure' he did not have much of an opportunity to play in Utah, and this is a way with us running a very similar system in Utah and Boise that he gets a chance to get reps. And some good practice time. We've been on the road, we're finishing tonight a five game road trip on the East Coast, so there hasn't been much practice time of many reps for guys that are not in the rotation so it's a great opportunity for Toure' to come down here and play. And the assignment, I think, will be good for everyone. So Toure' gets to play and we get to see him develop.
MS: He seems like he's shook a little of the rust off. He's playing better tonight, uh, today than he might have played a little bit last night. A little tentative. We're seeing more of what, I think, Utah saw when you had him on your roster.
JZ: Well I think there's probably some rust or jitters for everyone, it's the second game for Idaho as well. Certainly just trying to get into the flow of playing big minutes going from not playing and having some little practice time to 25 / 35 minutes here. It'll be a bit of an adjustment and learning to play with other players he hasn't played with yet. Every game the familiarity will obviously get better.
MS: Are there other players, without getting too far into the thinking of the Jazz, but are there other potential assignments throughout the season?
JZ: You can never predict what's going to happen as we go through the season. And the coaching staff / management identify that Idaho would be a useful tool for one of our players in terms of development. Well certainly we wouldn't hesitate since we have a close relationship here in running basketball operations. Again, it's very nice to have another tool in the tool box, so to speak; to have a D-League organization to be able to rely on and really mold basketball-wise some of the things you want to accomplish with young guys.
MS: Final question for you Justin is when you were working with Dean Cooper and his staff and the front office of the Jazz during the NBA Developmental league draft what were you looking for when you were putting together this roster for Idaho? What were the parts you were looking to get?
JZ: So Dean and his staff here have done an outstanding job of research and film and they spent countless hours on the draft. And what we wanted to do was put a group together that I) we could find guys that we feel have NBA potential, can fit particular systems or needs in Utah in the future, but also at the main core that we have good, young, hard working guys that we can implement a system and then have them play together and see what we have.
MS: Alright, well, so far the EXPERIMENT [Ed. emphasis not added] and the relationship is off to a good start. The win last night wasn't there [Ed. Perd Hapley much?]. But see how things go, and I know we'll be seeing a lot more of you in Boise.
JZ: You will, thanks Mark.