Duke basketball: Potential Coach K successor outsmarts entire NBA

Duke basketball (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images) /

Quin Snyder boasts the brightest mind on the Duke basketball coaching tree.

Due to his improprieties and eventual fall from the helm of the Missouri program (1999-06), it’s safe to say seventh-year Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder doesn’t top the list of candidates to someday assume the Duke basketball throne.

However, when looking at Snyder’s NBA track record (286-216 in Utah), it’s tough to overlook the former Duke basketball player and assistant as a contender to succeed the currently 73-year-old Mike Krzyzewski. This season, following four straight playoff appearances, the 54-year-old has the Jazz sitting 15-5, tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the fewest losses in the league.

Prior to Sunday’s 128-117 loss on the road to the Denver Nuggets (12-8), Utah had reeled off 11 consecutive wins and thereby put the league on notice. The squad is set to return to its home floor when it faces the Detroit Pistons (5-15) at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday.

Worth noting, Snyder is directing the impressive success despite a roster showing only five former first-round picks and only two combined All-Star nods (Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert last season). And by spinning this relatively ordinary collection into solid gold, the Washington native became the Western Conference Coach of the Month for both December and January.

The genius of the Duke basketball alum

Quin Snyder arrived at Duke as the first McDonald’s All-American in his state’s history. While earning a double major in political science and philosophy, the true point guard made three Final Four trips. A few years after graduation, he returned to Durham as an assistant while simultaneously earning a law degree plus an MBA.

Big brain, to say the least.

As a Coach K protege (1993-99), Snyder saw two more Final Four trips before landing the job at Missouri. After stepping down there, where he had a 126-91 record across seven campaigns, he served as a head coach in what was then the NBA D-League before holding assistant gigs with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Los Angeles Lakers, a pro team in Russia, and finally the Atlanta Hawks.

Considering his wide array of pursuits on and off the hardwood, it’s no wonder the ever-animated Snyder nowadays often appears to be simply smarter and wiser than his NBA peers.

This week, James Hansen of SLC Dunk summarized Snyder’s signature with his latest winners:

“During their win streak, the Jazz were tops in the league in offensive and defensive efficiency. A lot of this can be attributed to systems put in place by Snyder that have the Jazz shooting threes at one of the highest clips in the league while hitting on one of the best percentages in the league.”

Hansen continued:

“On the inverse, Utah’s defense is also designed to keep other teams from shooting threes. This has been a very effective formula that has set the Jazz apart as one of the best teams in the league.”

Among the victims of Utah’s dominant stretch were the Golden State Warriors, whose three-time NBA champion head coach, Steve Kerr, had the following to say at the time about the synchronized product that Snyder consistently puts on the floor:

“They’ve been good for a long time. The continuity is apparent right away. They all know each other so well. They execute their stuff beautifully.”

Clearly, Snyder now officially owns a winning formula — in the regular season, anyway. Now, whether his formula would translate in a return to the college game, well, chances are we’ll never find out.

Besides, he seems happy right where he is.

On the other hand, should Quin Snyder’s career continue to soar — perhaps to the tune of a championship ring or two — the Duke basketball program would surely be in a position to potentially offer significantly more than his present annual salary of $2 million.

Money might talk.

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