Former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder is assisting the Basketball Africa League
After eight years in Salt Lake City, Snyder recently ran the BAL Combine in Paris and has worked with its coaches: ‘You can feel the momentum.’
Quin Snyder surprisingly stepped away as head coach of the Utah Jazz last June after eight seasons, citing that the “players need a new voice.” Snyder was back on the hardwood recently as a new voice aiding the Basketball Africa League’s prospects and coaches.
The BAL hosted a combine in Paris on Jan. 15 and 16. There were 30 participants — including NBA star Dwyane Wade’s son, Zaire — who took part in anthropometric and athletic testing, positional skill development and 5-on-5 games in front of attending scouts, coaches, and executives from the 12 qualified teams for the 2023 BAL season. Snyder served as BAL Combine camp director, and also led a coaching clinic.
“I’m focused on this. I don’t want to reminisce or reflect [on the Jazz]. There’s plenty of time for that,” Snyder told Andscape in a phone interview from Paris on Monday.
Snyder’s BAL connection is that he has been a “close friend” of BAL president and former NBA international scout Amadou Gallo Fall for over two decades.
Fall launched the Sports for Educational Economic Development Academy (SEED) in Theis, Senegal, in 2002, which was Africa’s first basketball student-athlete academy. Up to 40 promising teenage boys and girls live, train and work towards achieving their goal of attending university to earn a college basketball scholarship or a pro basketball contract. San Antonio Spurs center Gorgui Dieng attended SEED while G League Ignite forward Babacar Sane was discovered by SEED. Snyder says he has worked with basketball players at SEED Academy and coached at the Basketball Without Borders in Johannesburg, Africa, in 2015.
“The passion that [Fall] has for growing the game in Africa and all the other things that come from that, the mentoring, the leadership,” Snyder said. “The development of young men as players and as coaches, you can feel that. So, we’ve stayed in contact over the years, and when he began to work with the BAL, just knowing that he was doing that, I am following it, and learned about it. The opportunity this year is unique for me, and I could participate. And he asked me to come over and do a clinic for the coaches that are here and to participate in the camp. And it’s something that, particularly when you are around and you can feel the enthusiasm in all the people that are committed to growing the game on the continent, it’s been something that’s really exciting for me personally.”
“You can feel the momentum; you can feel the players, the hunger that they have to improve, the enthusiasm of everybody on the staff here that’s working on the ground in Dakar and all over the continent.
The 2023 BAL season will again feature the top 12 club teams from 12 African countries playing a total of 38 games in Dakar, Senegal; Cairo, Egypt; and Kigali, Rwanda, over three months beginning March 11. The NBA has shown its interest in growing the game of basketball in Africa for years with Basketball Without Borders and the BAL, which is entering its third season.
Snyder believes the potential for basketball talent in Africa is “endless.”
“The [BAL] goal, as it’s been shared with me, is projecting out over a 10-year period to be one of the top leagues in the world,” Snyder said. “Basketball Without Borders is a big, big initial step in that, and then the academy, and now the BAL. And you can feel the momentum; you can feel the players, the hunger that they have to improve, the enthusiasm of everybody on the staff here that’s working on the ground in Dakar and all over the continent. And then all of the people surrounding that I think are wanting to contribute in some way to that goal to grow the game. And the infrastructure that’s being created really allows that process, it accelerates that process.”
Snyder added that the development of coaches in Africa is also important to the process of growing basketball players. He led a coaching clinic at the end of the combine action.
“There is so much opportunity, particularly for us as coaches, because oftentimes you’re further along in your professional career, to really learn from each other,” Snyder said. “And on a personal level, just to forge relationships. And then those things sometimes evolve into more professional sharing. And it’s fun to be in a camp environment too, which is, everybody’s got the same goal, is to do what they can to support on whatever level and whatever capacity. So, it’s fun on a personal level to have those interactions with coaches and to be around basketball and know that basketball builds bridges.”
The BAL prospect that Snyder was the most familiar with was Zaire Wade. Wade averaged 4.6 points and 1.9 assists in 13 games for the Jazz’s G League Salt Lake City Stars last season.
Snyder said he played “really well” during the first day of the BAL camp. Snyder also said he enjoyed speaking with Dwyane Wade, a Jazz minority owner who was at the combine supporting his son.
“One of the things I think that’s really unique to being here is, everybody’s got a different path,” said Snyder, a former Duke basketball player who also coached at the University of Missouri and with the G League Austin Toros. “My path is unique in some ways as far as being in college and then the D-League, and then an assistant, so I moved five times in five years. And trying to communicate that message to the players, that the adversity and the challenges that you face are the things that help you get better and really make you, not just as a player but as a man. And Zaire, knowing him and seeing last year him playing […] and then to see the commitment that he’s making here. I told Dwayne, ‘To see him grow as a player is fun.’ ”
Snyder resigned on June 5 after the Jazz ownership and management spent several weeks of trying to convince him to return as coach and offering a contract extension, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Snyder had two years left on his contract, including his own option on the final year, sources previously told Wojnarowski. Snyder also had hip surgery after last season.
Snyder had a 372-264 record in his eight seasons with the Jazz, which is the second-most wins in franchise history. The Jazz have the Western Conference’s longest active postseason streak at six years but did not advance past the conference semifinals in those seasons. Along with Snyder’s departure, the Jazz traded away NBA All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Snyder declined to go into detail about his departure from the Jazz.
“It’s been a good year for me personally, to have a chance to spend time with my family. And as I said before, I think it was time,” Snyder said.
Snyder acknowledged that “my hope” is to be back coaching in the NBA.
“Find a situation, if there’s an opportunity, first of all, to have that chance to do that,” Snyder said. “It’s what I love doing. And anything that you are passionate about and enjoy, you’re going to miss it on some level. But there’s other things in life that I’m passionate about too and it’s been great to have a chance to have a sabbatical.”