I think the one thing that stood out was the amount of time that John Stockton spent with me coming out of college. —Billy Donovan
OKLAHOMA CITY — Both men are in their early 50s.
Quin Snyder is 51. Billy Donovan is 52.
Both guys are NBA head coaches.
Snyder coaches the Utah Jazz. Donovan is the sideline leader for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Both even experienced college basketball under legendary coaches.
Snyder for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke; Donovan for Rick Pitino at Providence.
Both had to work their way through the college coaching ranks before ultimately leading their respective NBA teams into a 2018 first-round playoff series against each other.
And the similarities between Snyder and Donovan could go on and on and on.
“Except he won national titles,” Snyder said, referring to Donovan’s back-to-back championships at Florida in 2006 and 2007.
As the Thunder and Jazz face off in the postseason, Snyder said he has held a tremendous amount of respect for Donovan for a long time now. He has paid attention to his progression throughout the years while following a unique path of his own.
“What he did when he was at Florida obviously but more so what he’s done here,” Snyder said ahead of Game 1 in OKC. “I said it when we played here the last time and they overwhelmed us, I thought they were the best team in the league, defensively certainly, that we had played. While they were finding their continuity offensively, you could tell how hard that group and this team competed, and that’s clearly something that his teams have done throughout his career.”
Donovan’s career ironically also included a stop in Salt Lake City.
After his Providence playing tenure, Donovan was selected by the Jazz in the third round of the 1987 NBA draft with the 68th pick. He experienced summer league and training camp, but was ultimately waived before the regular season started. The memories of being a Jazzman are still fresh for Donovan, though.
“I think the one thing that stood out was the amount of time that John Stockton spent with me coming out of college,” Donovan said. “He was very early in his career, I think it was maybe his third year. He couldn’t have been any more gracious.
“Coach (Jerry) Sloan was an assistant coach at that time, and I always remember I went down in the hotel to get something to eat, the Marriott, and he was living at the Marriott at that time, and I would sit down there and have dinner and he was great,” he added. “The short period of time I was there, I really enjoyed the people. Obviously a great fan base, a lot of tradition and my time there was great.”
Although Snyder went undrafted after leading the Blue Devils to three Final Four appearances (1986, 1988 and 1989) and a couple of ACC titles, he did attend training camp with the Indiana Pacers before devoting all his energy to coaching.
With Snyder in his fourth season as Utah’s head coach and Donovan in his third for OKC, even more ironic, both teams ended the regular season identical at 48-34 overall.
Snyder has witnessed the opposition from afar with nothing but appreciation for his fellow NBA coaching brethren. Even as they’re competing on opposite ends of the hardwood on game days, it’s only bringing the best out of the two brilliant basketball minds.
“Really the job that he’s been able to do and really credit all the Thunder, the players, the way they’ve been able to kind of play off each other and sacrifice for one another and make each other better with a group that’s new,” Snyder said. “They have the same thing we have as far as trying to acclimate new players, and that’s a challenge from a coaching standpoint and one that it’s not like he needs my endorsement, but it’s obviously something that I have a tremendous respect for and that’s how I feel about their team, too.”