New owner Ryan Smith has started to put his mark on his NBA franchise, making Dennis Lindsey an advisory role.
Dennis Lindsey’s exit from president of Utah Jazz basketball operations was more an ownership decision than Lindsey’s personal decision, sources at the Salt Lake Tribune say, as new owner Ryan Smith opted out without Lindsey at the helm and selected general manager Justin Zanik. as the main decision maker of the team.
Smith made the decision to put his stamp on his organization as the new owner. “It’s only natural that his preferences and inclinations lead us in new directions,” Lindsey admitted last week after the team’s disappointing second-round exit against the Los Angeles Clippers.
And Lindsey wasn’t the only victim of the Jazz front office. David Fredman, who had worked for Jazz for almost five years since the team’s inception in 1974, and until this week, served as the team’s professional player personnel manager, was informed that his contract was not renewed.
There were a myriad of factors at play in Smith’s decision to leave Lindsey. One of the byproducts, intentional or not, will be the chance to purify the air and continue to improve the internal culture of the organization after a long disconnect between Lindsey and Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.
Lindsey, hired by Jazz in 2012, chose Snyder to be his team’s head coach in the summer of 2014 after a disappointing season under his predecessor Ty Corbin. But in the years that followed, Snyder and Lindsey’s relationship deteriorated, creating a distrust between the two that impacted Jazz’s day-to-day operations.
There were many disagreements, both on and off the pitch, according to sources.
• Lindsey and the team’s front office disliked Snyder’s tendency to keep rotations smaller and more consistent, preventing late bench players and prospects from getting playing time, downsizing players. which the front office believed or wanted to increase the value of (among them Dante Exum and Nigel Williams-Goss).
• Meanwhile, Snyder frankly believed that these players weren’t often NBA-rotating caliber, and playing them for significant minutes would hurt his chances of winning. Snyder believed Lindsey hadn’t given her teams as much talent as possible and left gaps on the roster unaddressed, which limited her training options – which became evident in the wake of the Jazz’s loss to the Clippers in this year’s playoffs.
• In Derrick Favors’ first stint with the Jazz, Lindsey was in favor of starting Favors as a power forward alongside All-NBA center Rudy Gobert, praising the defensive sense of the pair. Snyder, meanwhile, struggled to space the floor under those queues.
• Snyder has joined most of the Jazz front office feeling frustrated with the selection of Udoka Azubuike with the team’s first-round pick in 2020. The selection, sources say, was made following intense disagreement from the team’s scouting department, but Lindsey saw a future in Azubuike’s size and ability to finish around the basket.
• Snyder was sometimes frustrated with Lindsey’s public statements. In a 2018 interview, after a 9-12 start to the season, Lindsey noted Jazz’s high turnover as the source of the early season woes. Snyder saw the comments as encroaching on his territory.
• In general, there were disagreements over who oversaw various matters off the field, including certain aspects of the team’s training facilities.
For much of the couple’s working relationship, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO and former Jazz chairman Steve Starks acted as a go-between between Lindsey and Snyder, who rarely wanted to talk one-on-one. head. Indeed, the disconnect between the two was frequently discussed and seen as an open secret – first among those who work for Jazz, and then later among insiders of the league as a whole.
While disagreements between coaches and front offices are common in the NBA, Lindsey and Snyder’s relationship was seen as unusually cold.
“Look, there have been different issues for a while. This is how I want to fix it, ”said Fredman, when asked about the discord within the team’s front office. “Obviously, this is no surprise from an internal point of view.”
In a statement given to reporters after Lindsey’s decision became official, Snyder complimented Lindsey.
“I really appreciate that Dennis believed in me and gave me the opportunity to be the head coach of Utah Jazz,” said Snyder. “He was extremely committed to my success, the success of our players and he built a roster that continually put us in a position to grow and fight. I am and will remain grateful for the time spent working with him.
While the relationship between the two has not been as combative this year as it had been at various points in their tenure, thanks at least in part to the team’s regular season success, there was a the view of some within the organization that a long-standing feud had been settled.
“Quin won,” a source said simply.
The end result is this: Lindsey has been demoted to an advisory role which functionally acts as a way for Lindsey to stay connected to the league and continue earning her contract salary without having any real decision-making power within the league. team. The move was announced on Sunday night when the team learned the reshuffle would go public as soon as possible. Lindsey, in a statement, said he has been considering an advisory role for years.
But most would expect Lindsey to find another job in the NBA rather than sticking around with Jazz for a long time in that role – he would have been interested in the vacant Dallas job, since held by Nike executive Nico Harrison. His hometown of the Rockets would also make sense as a landing point, but the team want to give new general manager Rafael Stone a chance to shine. Lindsey, who finished second in this year’s NBA Executive of the Year vote, believes she can find a suitable position soon.
As for Fredman, “I just met them and they just informed me that they weren’t going to offer me a contract in the future,” Fredman told the Tribune. “I want to say that I am certainly disappointed, but not bitter. The Jazz have been great for me. It has been an honor to work for 42 years for the Jazz franchise. And we’ll see what happens in the future; it is important to note that I do not intend to retire.
As Managing Director, Zanik, who has a better relationship with Smith and Snyder than Lindsey, will lead the team’s operations. Zanik was hired by the Milwaukee Bucks from Jazz in 2016 and was set to become Milwaukee’s chief decision maker. This never happened, as the team’s ownership group ended up at odds over Zanik’s rise. He returned to Utah in 2017 and will finally have the chance to lead the decision-making of an NBA team with the Jazz.
With Lindsey’s basketball sense no longer present, the team want to complete their front office under the leadership of Zanik, whose experience comes primarily from his role as a basketball agent, not a scout. Dwyane Wade has added his voice to front office conversations, but does not play a daily role in decision making. Former Wade teammate and current Miami Heat basketball analysis and development director Shane Battier was mentioned as a potential addition to the team’s front office by Tony Jones of The Athletic on Sports Illustrated’s The Crossover podcast.
Former Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge reportedly met the team last week, and it is unclear in what role he would join the team if a marriage was found. Marquis Newman, currently the team’s scout coordinator, could take on greater responsibilities, as could Steven Schwartz, the team’s current director of basketball operations. Snyder, no doubt, will have an important voice.
It was also recognized that the current front office lacks diversity. Longtime Jazz front office executive Walt Perrin was the highest minority for years in the organization, but he was hired by the New York Knicks to be their deputy general manager last summer. Newman is black, but the team may want to add more diversity to the upper echelons of the management structure.
Frankly, the Jazz also want to make moves that star goaltender Donovan Mitchell and his team like. Even though Mitchell just signed a five-year extension with the team, the deal includes a player option after season four, and the pro-NBA player power structure means Mitchell, if he wanted to, could organize an outing earlier. Mitchell (and teammate Royce O’Neale) are represented by Ty Sullivan of the Creative Artists Agency (CAA); a current CAA executive is among those considered for a front-office role.
The franchise will want to nail these additions soon. The team had a somewhat fractured structure during last week’s NBA Combine which ended on Sunday. The NBA Draft takes place on July 29, and NBA free agency negotiations open on August 2. Creating a steering group for these key decisions would only help the team move forward.
But already, the team’s new ownership group has made substantial changes to the organization. By all accounts, there is more to come.