How do we know that Frank Vogel is a surefire goner after the Lakers season is over? Well, other than the fact that it’s been explicitly reported to be heading that way, we are also already hearing rumors about who may succeed him as Lakers head coach, including the names of two of the top candidates for the organization early on: Doc Rivers and Quin Snyder.
So with the Lakers officially eliminated from playoff contention and Rivers and Snyder both still coaching other NBA teams, I figured there was no one better to ask about what the two men bring to the table than two of our own team managers: Mr. Paul Hudrick, who writes about the Philadelphia 76ers for Liberty Ballers, and James Hansen, who writes about the Utah Jazz for SLC Dunk.
I polled the two of them with a few questions about Rivers and Snyder to try and give Lakers fans a better and more informed idea of the pluses and minuses of the two coaches than I ever could. Below are some questions and answers from our email exchanges.
What are his best qualities as a head coach?
Paul Hudrick: Doc still probably deserves the “leader of men” descriptor – despite the Ben Simmons saga. He took an underachieving Sixers team and led them to the East’s one seed last season. Joel Embiid becoming a perennial MVP candidate certainly helped, but it’s also fair to note that every non-Simmons member of the Sixers mostly improved in Doc’s first season here. Rivers also assembled a pretty elite staff with the likes of Sam Cassell, Dave Joerger and Dan Burke, among others. That group has done well to optimize Embiid’s strengths, getting him the ball in more favorable positions, and they’ve also varied up the defensive looks much more than the previous regime.
The other thing about Doc is that his reputation has drawn talent to Philadelphia. Andre Drummond came here on a minimum deal for the opportunity to play for Rivers, and in doing so became the team’s best Embiid backup before being dealt to the Nets. Georges Niang, who has become the Sixers’ most valuable reserve, credited Doc’s strong recruitment for his decision to become a Sixer. It’s no small thing that James Harden has said Rivers is part of the reason he felt like the Sixers were a great fit for him. Hell, even Daryl Morey, the man who might ultimately determine Rivers’ fate with the Sixers, left Houston in part for the opportunity to work with Doc.
James Hansen: Quin Snyder is maybe the best coach in the NBA at creating an efficient offensive system. The system will be created at the start of the year, based on the personnel, and it almost certainly will land you in the top-10, if not top-5, in offensive efficiency.
He also seems to be loved by his players. In his eight years of coaching the Jazz, there’s been next to no negativity from players about him, only praise. If the Lakers somehow ended up with Snyder, you can bank on an efficient offense with a coach the Lakers’ stars will appreciate. One of the stories we have heard time and again was how Kobe Bryant loved Quin Snyder when he was an assistant with the Lakers, and how Kobe loved to talk with Snyder about different offenses and ideas. He really is a great offensive NBA mind.
What are some of his weaknesses?
Hudrick: These are well-documented to many in the Los Angeles area. Doc’s rigidity with certain lineups and players has been his downfall. Clippers fans will always remember the blown 3-1 series leads, most notably the one that led to Rivers’ dismissal.
Much like Doc’s decision to play one of his guys in Montrezl Harrell over Ivica Zubac, Rivers’ insistence on playing Dwight Howard against the Hawks last season hurt the Sixers (Editor’s Note: Playing Dwight Howard too much? Can’t imagine what that’s like). Utilizing Simmons as the backup five in that series could’ve served two purposes in making the Sixers’ second unit more athletic and dynamic while also giving Simmons an opportunity to play with four shooters and perhaps get him going offensively.
We’re seeing a similar scenario play out now, where Rivers is dead-set on using DeAndre Jordan, who Lakers fans know quite well, as his backup five, while talented young bigs like Paul Reed and Charles Bassey haven’t even gotten a look with Harden (Editor’s Note: Playing DeAndre Jordan too much? Can’t imagine what that’s like).
While Rivers seems to have landed on a solid rotation of nine guys (outside of Jordan), the way he utilizes those nine guys is a legitimate concern heading into the postseason. His propensity to use bench-heavy lineups was another sore spot in the playoffs. He seems to have mostly gone away from that this season, but we’ll see.
Hansen: The systems that Quin Snyder creates, both offensively and defensively, are good, but he will almost never divert from them. Even if you’re up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets and they adjust to what he does, he won’t divert from it. Even if you’re up 2-0 to the Los Angeles Clippers and Ty Lue figures out how to attack your defense, Snyder will not change. Snyder was hired to the Jazz from Atlanta where he was an assistant coach to Mike Budenholzer, and it’s clear it had an influence on him. The ways people criticized Mike Budenholzer could also be criticisms of Snyder with his stubbornness.
That stubbornness also shows in his lineups on the floor. Snyder only seems to adjust the roster for injuries, and not for level of play. That includes in-game. If a player is having an off night, Snyder rarely will sub them out and will roll with the same rotations, by the minute, every night. And that goes all season. If a rotation player is not playing well, it will take months and months before Snyder even thinks of making an adjustment. And if he does, if the player that gets those minutes even makes the slightest mistake, they’ll get pulled and he will go back to the exact same lineups as before.
It can be very frustrating, especially if you want to see a young, developing player get minutes. Snyder will ALWAYS go with the player that runs his system correctly over a player with high upside.
Anything else you think we should know about him as a coach?
Hudrick: I will say that I think the Doc discourse has jumped the shark a bit. He has obvious weaknesses that aren’t likely to change much at 60 years old, but the Sixers still have a shot to be the one seed yet again, despite all the drama the team went through earlier this season. Embiid and Harden seem to be happy with their head coach — with Embiid making one subtle jab at a coaching decision recently, but nothing that created headlines or waves
Also, a lot has been made of his comments about Simmons after the team’s Game 7 loss. Really, those comments weren’t as damning as they’ve been made out to be. Was it Doc’s best media moment? No. He could’ve been more diplomatic in that response — and perhaps was trying to be — but I have a hard time buying that those comments were a determining factor in Simmons demanding a trade. The issues between Simmons and the organization seemed much more deep-seated.
Hansen: Overall, Snyder is a very good coach who has done a good job in Utah. He’s a very smart guy with a J.D. degree from Duke Law, as well as a Master’s degree in Business. I don’t know if it’s because he’s such a smart guy, but he can be incredibly stubborn, and had a big falling out with the Jazz’s former General Manager, Dennis Lindsey. You can read about that here, but it was a bad situation. If you don’t like a rotation Snyder runs, or a system he uses, tough, he’s not likely going to change.
These are the types of insights you can only get on a coach or player from someone who talks about and watches them daily, so a big thanks to James and Paul for taking some time out to help us familiarize ourselves with two of the men who could be leading the Lakers next year.