A minor Border War has broken out on the NBA front.
The Jazz are looking for a head coach, and according to media reports in Salt Lake City, candidates who have received two interviews include Quin Snyder and Alvin Gentry.
A former Missouri head coach and former Kansas assistant battle it out, along with at least one other with a regional tie. Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin is from Wichita, like Snyder and Gentry, has had two interviews or been considered a top candidate by sources, according to the Deseret News.
The Border War candidates harken back to good times. And bad for Snyder.
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When he succeeded Norm Stewart as the Tigers’ head coach in 1999, Snyder was seen as the anti-Norm, the young, talented Duke assistant whom new athletic director Mike Alden chose over then-Tulsa coach Bill Self. Snyder delivered four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, peaking with an Elite Eight run in 2002.
That was the Kareem Rush, Clarence Gilbert, Arthur Johnson, Rickey Paulding squad that caught fire in the NCAA as a 12th seed before falling to Oklahoma in the regional final.
The trouble started the next year. Ricky Clemons joined the team and the countdown to the end of Snyder’s first head coaching job had commenced. The program became engulfed in controversy and the losses mounted over the final two years. Even the ending brought a soap opera quality when radio analyst Gary Link delivered the news that Snyder wouldn’t be retained after the 2006 season.
The enduring image may have been the night a fan dumped a bucket of popcorn on Snyder’s head as he was walking off the floor after getting trounced by Illinois at the Braggin’ Rights game.
But Snyder battled back. He worked as a head coach in the D-League, in player development for the Sixers and as an assistant for the Lakers, Hawks and for CSKA Moscow.
He was 32 and unprepared for a major head coaching job in 1999. Today, he’s 47 and the Jazz believe he could be their man.
Or it could be Gentry, whose coaching career got a boost from an NBA tryout in 1977. The Nuggets’ star player, David Thompson, is Gentry’s cousin, and Thompson got Gentry a tryout. He didn’t make the team, but he impressed Nuggets coach Larry Brown.
A decade later, Brown hired Gentry at Kansas, and as Danny Manning put the finishing touches on Oklahoma for the 1988 NCAA title, Gentry was among the first to hug Brown.
He’s been a head or interim head coach in 12 seasons and has 705 games under his belt as the head man. Gentry’s best run came in 2010 with the Suns, who reached the Western Conference finals. He’s also interviewed for head coaching jobs with the Lakers and Cavaliers.
The favorite for the Jazz job seems to depend on the day, or the last one to have a second interview.