It was strange Tuesday night watching Quin Snyder step onto the floor for the Atlanta Hawks’ game against the Washington Wizards. The spectacle, a midseason addition to a troubled team that he parachuted into seemingly out of nowhere, had those around the NBA debating why exactly he and Atlanta were in such a rush.
“The money,” someone thought. “Why not,” offered another. Another potential bite at the playoff apple. The — eye roll here — “love of the game.” An itch the coach needed to scratch after being away for so long after splitting with Utah last summer. And so on.
However, a new head coach falling into the middle of a .500 team with three-quarters of the season in the books isn’t exactly the NBA norm.
And with that in mind, the most intriguing theory also seemed one of the most plausible: that the emerging power dynamic in Atlanta, and the big decisions to come around Trae Young and his teammates, meant Snyder was better served for to get into this job as soon as possible. as much as possible.
Time, and cut politics in the NBA, don’t wait for anyone.
With that in mind, the Hawks Tuesday night’s 119-116 loss was a bit of a no-brainer. Snyder was there, quickly going from vacation as an unemployed basketball coach to captaining an NBA team he had nothing to do with just days earlier, because the most important realities right now with the Atlanta Hawks are happening off the court. .
This event can be split into two parts — one playing out in a split locker room and the other in a Game of Thrones-esque front office.
Or so the thinking goes.
Starting in the locker room, it’s no secret that there’s a serious disconnect between Young, the team’s star player, and many — though some say nearly all — of his teammates. He is not loved, sources say, and there is a strong sense that Young fails to lead, understand or care to understand what is required of him, and that as a result the team will never achieve what it needs until that reality is corrected. .
One way or another.
Not that trading him would be easy: “They’d want a ton for him,” said one NBA executive. “And I don’t think there’s anyone willing to pay what that would require.”
Or, a little harsher, as one GM put it: “You can’t win with him.”
This is where Snyder comes in with a handful of useful powers.
He has a reputation for building strong relationships with his players. He is seen as someone who can bring out the best in young talent. His time with the Jazz, particularly the issues between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, gave him plenty of experience navigating strained player relationships. Snyder is credited with developing strong cultures, also particularly important in Atlanta, where the team’s atmosphere has been described by various sources as “broken,” “ugly” and “total s—.”
In light of that, the sooner Snyder gets to town, the better. This is the overtime in which he gets to meet Young and Young’s teammates. Time to work to build a better culture. Time to try to integrate the team’s superstar back into the locker room. Time, perhaps, to help Young be seen internally and externally as something other than an immature, if talented, point guard.
Or it’s time to decide none of this is possible.
This, according to many sources, is the other side of the equation. Snyder taking 21 games this season to evaluate Young will give him insight into whether he even wants to build around Young for the remainder of the coach’s five-year contract.
Snyder, it seems, can either bond with Young and help the mega-talent fit better with his teammates, or push to get him out of the way this summer. Better, in any case, to take the time to find out which option is better.
But moving on from Young, even if Snyder decided he wanted to do it, would require the new coach to have a loud enough voice to be heard in an organization with a cacophony of different interests trying to untangle ownership.
Which brings us to the second reason many around the league believe Snyder rushed into this job the way he has: Because the Atlanta Hawks’ front office policy begs for an early arrival.
Chaos is a ladder, and all that.
Since president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk was sidelined to an advisory role in December, the word in the Hawks’ front office has been that of an elegant space where the mysterious alchemy of billionaire management is paramount to success, even survival. .
Quick coverage of the dynamics there: After Schlenk was ousted, Landry Fields was promoted to general manager. Kyle Korver took over as assistant general manager. Tony Ressler, the billionaire owner of the team in question, is said to be obsessively focused on winning and very ambitious about how quickly he wants it to happen. And as The Athletic reported in January, Ressler’s 27-year-old son, Nick Ressler, has enormous influence and visibility in the day-to-day running of things.
A nugget that illustrates the strange politics of the place: There are whispers that Fields didn’t want Snyder hired in the first place. And that it was Korver, effectively managing the Resslers, who pushed for Snyder’s hiring.
While the Hawks organization would surely push back and insist that it’s all rainbows and puppy dogs, it’s hard to deny that after what happened to Schlenk and Nate McMillan, the former coach who was fired on Feb. 21, everyone in Atlanta is trying to figure out which way the Resslers want the wind to blow.
That kind of dynamic gives Snyder a chance, as one person put it, “to have a voice with the Hawks — if he can get along well enough with the owners — he felt he didn’t have in Utah. Everybody knows what that’s like.” important to him.”
There’s a lot going on in Atlanta. The Trae Young Experience is not going well and this needs to be fixed or shortened. There is a power vacuum to be filled, the physics of which will be determined by an ownership group that those around them are still trying to understand. A challenge, yes, but also an opportunity.
Quin Snyder, now on the scene, is an excellent coach and men’s manager who is more than capable of working to fix these things — for his new team, the thinking goes to his own ends as well.