Utah Jazz: Quin Snyder may soon become top candidate for Duke job

Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Utah Jazz head coach might someday appear on his alma mater’s wishlist.

Ever since UNC basketball legend Roy Williams’ sudden retirement on Thursday at age 70, speculation has exploded regarding his rival eight miles down Tobacco Road. Yes, Duke basketball treasure Mike Krzyzewski, 74, is likely to soon hang it up as the NCAA all-time wins leader. At that time, like it or not, Utah Jazz gem Quin Snyder should be a prime potential successor.

First, for the sake of full disclosure, I must point out that I’m the son of a Duke grad and a former student there as well. In other words, my father and I were both avid Cameron Crazies, meaning I shall always have no choice but to count Blue Devils every night to fall asleep.

And that parade of Blue Devils I forever welcome in my dreams most definitely includes Snyder, who just so happened to be the starting point guard under Krzyzewski when I began giving Duke basketball games my full attention in the 1987-88 season at the age of six.

Fiercely competitive. Wise beyond his years. Indeed, Quin Snyder was one of my earliest Blue Devil heroes.

Now, as a longtime Utah Jazz enthusiast and a lifelong Duke nut, I’m fortunate to have a platform to routinely write about both Snyder and the Blue Devils as the site expert here at The J-Notes and at its FanSided counterpart for news and views about the Blue Devils, Ball Durham.

With that in mind, while many Utah Jazz fans won’t like what I have to say now or later in terms of Snyder-to-Duke chatter, just recognize my fairly unique perspective on the matter.

Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, once the sharpest assistant ever under Coach K

Following his playing days as a Blue Devil (1985-89) and a brief break from the game, the first-ever McDonald’s All-American from the state of Washington worked his way up to the seat next to Mike Krzyzewski on the Duke basketball bench while simultaneously earning both a law degree and MBA at the prestigious private university.

A sign of brains and dedication galore.

In 1999, after the Duke basketball team went 37-2 but came up a few points shy of a national title, Quin Snyder took his genius and determination to Missouri and instantly guided the Tigers to four consecutive NCAA Tournament bids, climbing as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25 Poll along the way.

Granted, this first gig as a head coach came to a crashing end in 2006 with Snyder’s resignation. That immediately followed Missouri’s six-game losing streak, which apparently served as the final straw after some recruiting improprieties a few years prior had landed the program in hot water with the NCAA.

Yet despite those past troubles as a brash leader in his 30s, there’s no doubt that the matured Snyder nowadays stands out as the strongest branch on the Duke basketball coaching tree.

In fact, had he gone straight from Missouri to his current position in Utah without having to reestablish his credibility via what was then the NBA D League — and then as an assistant in the NBA plus a year spent in Russia — Snyder would likely be in line as Duke’s clear choice to become its next head coach.

On the other hand, one could argue the bumpy road helped mold Snyder into the success he is today.

After all, at 36-11 entering a home matchup at 7 p.m. MT Friday against the Chicago Bulls (19-27), this Utah Jazz squad remains atop the NBA standings in what is Snyder’s seventh season at the helm in Salt Lake City (320-243 overall record). Add in the fact he’s the reigning All-Star head coach from the Western Conference.

Now, no matter his feelings on the subject of the five-time national champs, knowing Snyder, he’ll sidestep the Duke topic in interviews, at least until the day when his former mentor retires.

Of course, Snyder might be perfectly happy where he’s at, even knowing that his wealthy alma mater would perhaps offer more than three times his current salary (Coach K rakes in roughly $10 million a year as the most recognized face in the college game who orchestrates the program whose games regularly draw more viewers than primetime NBA affairs).

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Again, though, there will probably soon come a time when Utah Jazz supporters should start to at least feel slightly worried about Snyder’s conceivable dream job becoming available, which would present an ideal opportunity for him to revamp his legacy at the college level.

OK, so when will this time come? Well, it’s quite possible not even Mike Krzyzewski knows the answer to that question. However, judging from my observations, particularly the recruiting trends I closely monitor at Ball Durham, I’d guess the man who gets my vote as the GOAT is gearing up for his swan song next season.

Meanwhile, especially in light of the Roy Williams news this week, there are Dukies who fear the announcement may happen before next season.

On that note, I should wrap this up by expressing my personal feelings about whether I’d want to see Quin Snyder — a key figure in setting the tone for my Blue Devil fandom some 30 years ago — leave the Utah Jazz to assume the Duke basketball throne.

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But to avoid enraging any readers here, I’ll keep those thoughts to myself.