While the timing of firing Nate McMillan and targeting a new coach with 23 games left in the season may have seemed odd at first, it gave Hawks management a clear field and the chance to land their top target — former Jazz coach Quin Snyder — before other teams moved on from their head coaches and that field got crowded.
It appears the Hawks are about to get their man, they are close to a deal with Snyder according to reports from both Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. This is not a surprise as the sides had been talking and moving quickly toward an agreement, which Charania reports will be in the $8 million a year range (in the upper echelon of NBA coach salaries).
Snyder helped establish a strong basketball culture in Utah, where the Jazz excelled at player development and had a distinct ball and player movement system. Hawks management reportedly sees Snyder as someone who can establish that same, team-first culture in Atlanta.
While there is much more to this, at its core this is a hire about an attempt to build a contender around Trae Young. It will be about the Young and Snyder relationship, but it will be one on equal footing. Young may be the team’s superstar, but this is the first coach who comes in with the gravitas and standing within the organization to stand toe-to-toe with him — management isn’t automatically siding with Young anymore. This is a hire about building a culture bigger than that.
There are things about Snyder’s system that will suit Young — more 3-pointers, especially ones in transition. Young also can be a gifted passer and the system will call for that. However, he can pound the ball and jack up shots, break offensive sets and is not a great defender — all things Snyder will call him on. Other players see Young as someone who doesn’t always put the team first, who can chase numbers and prioritize what’s best for himself. Young finished 12th among guards in voting by other players for the All-Star Game, behind an injured LaMelo Ball, Jalen Brunson and Darius Garland (while that is not the definitive way to define player popularity, it is a sign of what players think).
Speaking with reporters Friday afternoon, Young said he has “nothing but love and respect” for deposed Hawks coach Nate McMillan. Young was asked if people might see him as a coach killer after he had fraught relationships with both Lloyd Pierce and Nate McMillan.
“People are going to say what they’ve got to say. A lot of players have played for a lot of coaches. I don’t look at it like that,” Young said, via the Associated Press. “I’m not looking at the next coach who comes in here. I’m trying to win a championship, whatever it is, I’m just trying to win.”
Snyder just wants to win too, and has a track record of putting together outstanding regular season teams, which is why the Hawks are offering him the head coaching job.