A week removed from Quin Snyder stepping down from the head coaching position for the Utah Jazz and all the buzz around Jazz Nation is “who’s going to be the next coach?”
Last week, our SLC Dunk’s staff explored what’s being reported as the likely direction team will go for the next coach. The Utah Jazz streamed an interview with Danny Ainge to highlight his thoughts about the head coaching position:
Danny and Ryan Smith have reiterated their intention of “taking [their] time” with the search process. They weren’t kidding.
Various networks reported last week that 14 names have been selected as candidates for the head coaching position. From former head coaches to current Jazz assistants, there’s a lot of names and info to keep track of.
Fortuantely for Jazz Nation, that problem is solved. We’ve created a head coaching search comparison sheet (see example below). In this document, you can put names to faces, organize candidates, visualize their current jobs, their projected odds, personal information, as well as coaching, player, and front office experience and reputation.
We’ll also update the sheet with a “Status” section so you know who has been interviewed and who’s progressing through the process.
Check out the comparison document here.
14 candidates is quite a wide net. In fact, it’s such a wide, diverse net it’s prompted some skepticism about how many are legitimate candidates versus favor swapping:
The straight shit on this one: they already know it's gonna be one of 3-4 guys, and the rest are them just doing agents favors and playing nice politically.— dan c. (@danclayt0n) June 10, 2022
"Oh, your guy is interested? For sure, we'd love to talk to him."
Even the most tin-foil hat averse should consider that the two reporters breaking the candidate names, Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania, have often been suspected of narrative framing and back-scratching agents and teams for scoops and stories.
This is a fairly small, if any sized, leap.
So let’s sift through our comparison sheet (by the way, did we mention the sheet where you can compare/contrast all the candidates?) to find out who are the real candidates for head coach of the Utah Jazz.
Likely Just a Favor
Being accepted for an interview is a great kudos. It shows mutual interest and confirms there’s a required level of competency. When qualifications are still a bit lacking for the position, an interview grants the candidate some extra brownie points for future jobs.
This is the likely category a few of the candidates fall in, like it or not.
Lamar Skeeter is a household name with the Jazz. Without D1 or NBA player experience and no other coaching experience, Lamar hasn’t shown to be the rising star similar names have throughout the league. This interview is likely to keep him in the organization somehow.
Joe Mazzulla, current assistant with the Boston Celtics, has far too little coaching experience to truly be in contention. Despite his experience as a player and his time coaching D2, he’s got a few more years to pay his dues (see the Adrian Griffin path).
Jason Terry also falls in this group as well for similar reasons. He’s quickly found his coaching footing following his playing days with Arizona and the Grand Rapids Gold and this interview is likely setting up an assistant head coach gig somewhere in the league where he could follow a Jason Kidd type trajectory.
Jerome Allen is flush with experience: player and coach at multiple levels with several years to his name. His bribery scandal as a college coach could be limiting his ceiling in the NBA ranks, something for which an agent may call in a favor.
Likely Due Diligence
Even though Utah likely has their eyes set on a small group of candidates, “due diligence” suggests they should cast a wider net to interested parties with similar resumes as their select group. It gives the opportunity for the organization to stumble on a real find.
Will Hardy fits this bill to a tee. From the San Antonio Popovich tree, Hardy is a rising star and is featured on the Boston Celtics coaching staff vying for a title. Despite no D1, G-league, or NBA coaching experience, he’s leaving serious impressions everywhere he lands.
Similarly, Chris Quinn has been labeled a mini-Erik Spoelstra. With similar coaching experience as Hardy, Quinn also tacks on D1 and NBA playing experience. He’s another rising star who’s ceiling is capped in Miami but shows all the makings of a big-time coach.
Charles Lee was just promoted to associate head coach under Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee (likely as a play to keep him in house). Like Quinn, he was a D1 player and has been an assistant for 8 years, the past 3 he’s been labeled by The Athletic as a name to watch in upcoming positions.
Sean Sweeney is another rising star who’s probably a year from getting the recognition of Hardy, Quinn, and Lee. He was credited with a lot of the defense and preparation that propelled a feel-good story Dallas team through Utah and Phoenix. He’s been an assistant for 8 years, as well.
Frank Vogel is the last guy in this due diligence category. Vogel was unceremoniously let go at the end of the season by the Los Angeles Lakers but will collect a paycheck through the upcoming season. He’ll certainly coach again, but there’s no rush and it’ll be on his terms. Utah is wise to gauge his interest and the mutual compatibility.
Likely Serious Contenders
The serious contenders for Utah are a unique mix of Jazz affiliated personnel, former coaches, and assistants long poised for the promotion. There’s a wealth of arguments for any of these candidates and ultimately there’s some preference that would go into each.
Johnnie Bryant, the current odd-makers’ favorite for the position at +300, is a former Jazz assistant coach and University of Utah player. He’s 8 seasons into his coaching career and currently the associate head coach under Tom Thibodeau in New York.
His relationship with Donovan Mitchell, previous experience in the program, and reputation as a player’s coach with serious player development chops is why he’s a serious candidate.
Former Portland Trailblazer’s coach Terry Stotts is about as experienced as you’ll find in the league. 14 seasons as an assistant, 13 as a head coach. He’s credited with building elite offenses and working with star players like Damian Lillard. He’s very akin to detail and preparation like the team was used to under Quin Snyder.
Towards the end of the season Terry was seen at Utah Jazz games with Smith and Ainge. There’s clearly a respect and a relationship there worth serious consideration.
Like Johnnie Bryant, Alex Jensen is the home state kid. Centerville basketball star, University of Utah great, 4 years as a G-League coach for the Canton Charge, and 8 seasons with the Utah Jazz as an assistant. There’s a wealth of experience and familiarity with Alex. He excels with his preparation and was instrumental in Rudy Gobert’s development.
The only possible downside to Alex could be that his voice is too similar to Quin’s (about which Snyder himself said the team needs a new dose of).
Adrian Griffin has paid his dues. After 4 seasons as a player with Seton Hall, 9 seasons playing in the NBA with various franchises, Adrian became an assistant soon after his playing career ended. Now with 14 years as an assistant, he’s well traveled and well poised for the big gig. Griffin is an NBA champ from the 2019 Toronto Raptors and acquired his Ph.D.
Adrian is known as a defensive coach, helping to pioneer defenses with Nick Nurse and Tom Thibodeau. He’s an excellent motivator and has built a reputation of a players coach.
Lastly, Kevin Young from the Phoenix staff appears to be a serious candidate. He’s another guy with Utah ties, having grown up here, but has blazed a different trail through the league. He spent 6 years in the G-league with the Flash, Energy, and 89ers before landing with the Philadelphia 76ers and continuing with the Phoenix Suns the past 6 years.
He’s developed a reputation as an excellent communicator, working with stars like Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. He’s also highly thought of as an offensive minded coach.