It’s hard to think that the journeyman’s journey is anywhere close to over. The pride of Mercer Island just finished one of the NBA’s most impressive coaching stints in the past decade, even if the postseason success was lacking. 

After eight seasons with the Jazz — which included six playoff berths and three division titles — Quin Snyder announced his resignation Sunday, saying the team “needs a new voice to continue to evolve.” Maybe that’s true, but his voice won’t be easy to replace. 

Snyder’s history in hoops is one of the more fascinating sports stories out there. He earned local fame by winning Washington player of the year twice at Mercer Island High School and becoming the first player from the state to make the McDonald’s All-American team. He earned national fame by playing for Duke for four seasons and reaching the men’s Final Four three times. 

He made his mark in the coaching ranks by leading Missouri to four consecutive men’s NCAA tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight, which is the farthest the Tigers had gone in the dance. And then, well, then things got weird. 

In 2004, Snyder’s name was mentioned 17 times in an NCAA investigation centered on recruiting violations. The program was placed on a three-year probation, and in 2006, while in the midst of a 10-11 season, Snyder resigned.
Most of the time, this is where it ends for a man of Snyder’s status — at least in terms of high-profile coaching. Quin’s next stop wasn’t another Division I program or NBA assistant gig — it was three years coaching the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League (now the G League).

Not that he had to coach. The man had a J.D. and MBA from Duke. But it’s hard for someone to ignore what’s in his DNA. 

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So after three years in Austin, he went off to the 76ers for a year as a development coach. Then it was to the Lakers as an assistant under Mike Brown. Then there was a detour in Russia, when he took over as coach of CSKA Moscow, followed by a stint as the Hawks’ head assistant coach. And then — boom — the Jazz hired him as their coach in June 2014.

A coach doesn’t keep getting these opportunities without building a reputation. I imagine Snyder’s list of references looks more like a scroll. Still, as they say, a former assistant coach gets a whole lot dumber when he moves over 18 inches to the head coach’s seat. Snyder apparently missed this memo, though. 

Quin took over a team that had finished 25-57 the season before he was hired. The Jazz went 38-44 the next season, 40-42 the next, and in 2017 they reached the playoffs with a 51-31 record and Northwest Division title. They ended up losing in the conference semifinals to the Warriors, who went 16-1 that postseason. 

The success didn’t stop — five consecutive playoff berths ensued, including one with the No. 1 overall seed in the West. But Utah never made it past the second round. And after falling to Dallas in the first round this year, Snyder decided it was time for new leadership.

Utah’s star player, Donovan Mitchell, wasn’t particularly happy about this. According to ESPN, the three-time All-Star said he was “surprised and disappointed” about Snyder’s departure. It’s not easy to squeeze such consistency out of a small-market team, after all. Which makes me think another prime opportunity is awaiting the 55-year-old Snyder should he seek it. 

Might it be in the NBA? Doesn’t seem unlikely. The league tends to put certain coaches on its carousel, and Snyder’s track record qualifies him for the ride. Might it be in college? There are more opportunities on that level — but it also comes with the never-ending grind of recruiting. 

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How about this, though? A return to Seattle to coach the UW men’s team. As Dan Raley mentioned in a Sports Illustrated piece, the Huskies offered Snyder the coaching job 20 years ago before Snyder turned it down. 

Yes, I know — Mike Hopkins is still the coach here. And because he might be one of the 10 nicest humans on the planet, I’m rooting for his success. But there is no doubt his position is tenuous given the Huskies’ record over the past three seasons. Should he go after a disappointing season, is hometown hero Quin Snyder the guy? 

Pure speculation, of course, but that’s what sports writers do. Either way, Snyder deserves a tip of the cap. 

No matter what he does from here, the local boy did good.