The Utah Jazz have a new coach, out with Tyrone Corbin, and in with Quin Snyder. They comprise very interesting case studies -- not just because one follows the other one in order. As the eighth head coach in total franchise history (eight coaches in 41 seasons) the numbers tell us that this is a team that really champions stability. It also tells me that the team kind of shuns making moves just to make moves. Corbin and Snyder are interesting because they almost comprise opposites with how they got to where they are now. But ultimately, it will be the similarities in what they wanted and what the Jazz value that will bind them.
Let's start with Coach Corbin. He was a four year player in high school and college, and both times with the same team the entire time. (No red-shirting / no changing high schools because your draft stock will improve) He had four years with each of these normal stages of his life to grow into his role and we'll use these four year chunks as the baseline for normality. He played hard and did enough to get drafted and then make the team during training camp.
His stay with the San Antonio Spurs was short, as he was released partway through his second season in the league. Then he signed on with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then the next season he played in Cleveland and was traded midseason to the Phoenix Suns. By the time his fourth season in the NBA had come and gone he had played for three different teams -- in three different time zones. And join those teams in three different ways, drafted, traded, and as a free agent. If you compared the stability period of those first four years in the NBA it's a miracle that Corbin stayed in the league. Guys who bounce around a lot like that rarely find their home. Corbin was a fighter and didn't quit.
The next four seasons had him make lemonade with his life, and he was in his peak. Corbin was left unprotected in the Expansion draft, but was selected in that draft. On one hand the team that had him didn't want him, but some team did. As a result, he never played better as a starter for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team he played 2.5 seasons for. Then another mid-season trade happened, sending him to the Utah Jazz, where he would start there for 1.0 out of 1.5 seasons. While it included another shakeup during the 'best' time of his playing career he did go to a team making the playoffs and was playing with great team mates and a great head coach. It was a breath of fresh air for Corbin compared to the train wreck of the beginning of his NBA playing career, but still far from the normality baseline of being in the same place for four years in a row.
He would play one more full season in Utah, then be traded again, this time in the off-season to the Atlanta Hawks. After a year in Georgia he was traded right before the draft to the Sacramento Kings. After a short stop in Sactown he was traded before the deadline to the Miami Heat. And then the heat released him. All of this happened in three seasons. He signed on with the Atlanta Hawks and finished this four season block with that team as a starter. So this period of his career was just as volatile as the beginning, if not more so (four teams in four years), but at least he was starting now.
His final four years as a player had him play one more "hooray life is okay" season in Atlanta, then be waved the next. His last two stops in the NBA would be free agent signings with the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors. That's another three teams in four years block for Tyrone. And all-in-all, the "normal" periods during his playing days were the times when he would play for a team for two and a half seasons straight before getting traded, waived, released, or picked up in an expansion draft. None of his playing days were as uniformly as stable as his high school and college days. Moving beyond the four season blocks there were times where he was with a team for close to 3 years (rounding up). But compared to what 'normal' was in the baseline situation these were abnormal.
And I guess that's Corbin's playing career, where the abnormal became the regular. And may have been an influence to how he coached -- being combative against criticism, favoring veteran guys in contract years, and so forth, having a disdain for the 'young hot shots' who would routinely come into the league after him and send him to the bench again.
Anyway, his playing days were done. Corbin went back to the source, South Carolina where he went to high school, and was a player mentor for two seasons with the local NBA-DL team. Then he was hired by Scott Layden, then the New York Knicks boss/General Manager. What was Corbin's title? He was the Manager of Player Development. Who were the guys 25 and under on that roster? Cezary Trybanski, Frank Williams, DeMarr Johnson, Bruno Sundov, and Mike Sweetney. I don't know how well those guys developed, but he no doubt worked his butt off there. So much so that his efforts in New York did enough to get Scott Layden to go to bat for him, and get him a job on the Jazz coaching staff. He started off the bat as a full-time assistant, none of this "behind the bench" stuff or "random internship" like the team did with Jeff Hornacek and Karl Malone. This was a relatively stable four year block for Corbin, and like most of his career, it was three different teams in four years.
But things changed when he got back with the Jazz. This, his playing days long behind him, became the longest period of stability in his life. He was an assistant with the team (but never the top assistant) for six and a half seasons (in his playing days this is like 8 teams worth of time has passed) -- and then Jerry Sloan called it a career. Jerry's top assistant, Phil Johnson, also rode off into the sunset. The most senior guy still remaining was Corbin, so he got the job. In my opinion I think that he had earned his dues and it's not like the Jazz job was out of the blue. The speed that he got it was, but he had previously been interviewing for NBA head coaching jobs before.
Coach Corbin would spend, in total, a decade in Utah. And he did it in a row, finally achieving a better than the baseline stay with a franchise. (4.0 seasons being the baseline established from High school and college, and his career stops had him in one place for, on average, 1.318 years before moving on to another squad. That's rough.) (N.B. These are the more precise numbers, not the "easy rounded up numbers" I used in other articles, and in this one too.)
Corbin moved a lot, but found a home in Utah. It's stability like that which helps bring up the stark contrast of Quin Snyder.
Snyder also played four years in high school and college both. And both with the same team, so he establishes the exact same time frame for normality here, with a baseline of 4.0 seasons. There is a gap of three basketball seasons after his last game at Duke University. He went undrafted, and I do not have any information on if he tried to play in other leagues or not. But in the last year of that four year post-grad block had him jump on as an Assistant Coach with the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA. Snyder didn't do the run-around of trying to play in other leagues, nor did he have the more directed (or so he though) path that Corbin had as a guy who was drafted. But Snyder took this job as an Assistant Coach three years out of college. Corbin wouldn't get here until three years out of his playing days. So in this regard, if you remove the level they played at, they are similar. Snyder would only coach for the Clippers for one season, which was way below the baseline of 4.0 seasons.
The next block had him be a coach with the Duke Blue Devils (either as an Admin coach to assistant coach, to top assistant) for the entire run of it. In fact, Snyder would spend the next six seasons in a row with Duke. This is stability that is over the baseline of four seasons, and way better than what Corbin had this early in his career.
The next block had him go on a run as the Head Coach of the Missouri Tigers, and this lasted for seven seasons. Seven is also higher than four, and even higher than his six year run at Duke. This is early career stability. If we are breaking it down by blocks, he spent more than three full blocks at two locations. Snyder would coach the Tigers for another bit and then have to leave the program because things got asploded.
He was hired by R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich, and Dennis Lindsey to be the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs d-League team, the Austin Toros. And he spend another four years / full block there. Then he got his bags packed and spend the next four years all in new places.
He was hired as an assistant under Doug Collins, and the Philadelphia 76ers. The next season had him be on the Los Angeles Lakers bench behind Mike Brown. After that he was in Moscow, with CSKA's top man Ettore Messina. Soon after that short stop he returned to the NBA, and was an assistant under Mike Budenholzer. And that was one heck of a four year block.
For the Jazz media they brought up his movement. I think it's overblown. Part of it is the direct comparison of Tyrone Corbin being a) in the same system for a decade, and b) Tyrone Corbin being in the Jazz system and in this specific track. It's a point of comparison people make, and as a result, it opens up the door to comparing these two coaches.
So when you do compare the last 10 years of Snyder's coaching travels you have him as the NCAA coach who leaves the job in disgrace, then the NBA-DL coach for a successful NBA franchise, then he has four straight "one and done" jobs. That's six different teams, and four different levels of play in a decade. That obviously looks like the opposite of ten straight years with the same team in the same league.
Snyder did manage to have three post-NCAA blocks where his stay was between 4 and 7 seasons in a row. Recency bias has us worried. Even if you include his one year with the Clippers (so now 5 total one and dones) his average time at a job is 3.0 seasons in a row. That's more than what Ty's was, which is 2.3 when you include the HUGE OUTLIER of Ty being in the same place for ten years in a row. (I guess the question is: "Is this more on Ty's progress as a coach, or the Jazz's hesitance to make moves/changes?")
This is going to be the new norm:
With shorter coaching engagements and more movement between the systems (NCAA, NBA, D-League, Europe) you will see people with these types of resumes more and more. Corbin was a miracle because he stuck with it and made a success out of his playing career despite such a fundamentally unstable opening four years to his career. Snyder appears to be on shakey ground with the last four years of his career -- despite long stays in college, and a theoretically great few seasons coaching in the D-League.
Corbin had the longest stability, but Snyder has the greater average stability. One had it early, the other late. If you break it all down, this is the timeline you get of their careers.
Snyder is signed for three years with an option for a fourth. This will be the next four year block of his career, to test it against the baseline stability established from 4 years in college and high school. Corbin currently does not have a coaching job, but he has shown the ability to always land on his feet. So I'm not worried about him.
Jazz fans are spoiled by Jerry Sloan's dominance and the Larry H. Miller-created stability of this franchise. After all, this is still the eighth coach in franchise history. Corbin shows us that if there's one thing that trumps all it's fit. Ty was a great fit for the corporate culture of the Jazz franchise and gained the benefit of that. Synder may not be a great fit for the old culture, but the cultural revolution is happening right now within the organization.
They may have had stability at different times of their careers, and yes, Snyder has the job now. But ultimately I think it's Corbin who had the trump card -- as it was agreed upon (and only announced after the season) that Corbin could not be fired mid-season this last year no matter what. They'd let him play out his contract. I do not think that DL will hesitate to pull the trigger on Snyder if things go south.
Average stability aside, if anything we know that outliers exist. I hope that Snyder isn't just another 'bridge' to the next great coach. I hope for all of his success here. And more than anything, I never want to see the Jazz franchise become a revolving door for coaches. So, fingers crossed for Quin.
Or as SLC Dunk podcast regular MikeyVP says -- I'm all in for Quin!