Utah Jazz: Owner Ryan Smith weighs in on state of team, coaching search

On Tuesday Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith sat next to UFC president Dana White on a stage in front of a fireplace inside the Legends Club at Vivint Arena as the two promoted UFC 278, which will be held at the Viv’ on Aug. 20.

But, for the Utah Jazz beat reporter in attendance, the more interesting conversations were to be had after the UFC promotion, when Smith met with a handful of local reporters and fielded questions mostly related to the Jazz.

The first thing I wanted to know was how the search for a new head coach was going and if there was a timeline on finalizing that search. Smith said that the timeline and the decisions were being made by CEO of Jazz basketball Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik.

“I checked in last night and this morning and I think Danny and Justin are doing a great job,” Smith added. “Danny set (the timeline) up in the press conference. I mean, that wasn’t my timeline. He was pretty direct on what that timeline would be. And that’s what he’s here — he’s here to lead and it’s my job to empower him.”

“I think Justin told me that it was about six weeks in the process of hiring Quin (Snyder). I think we’re in a similar boat. — Danny Ainge

What Smith is referencing is the June 6 press conference with him, Ainge and Quin Snyder the day that Snyder stepped down. But nobody offered a timeline on that day. In fact, they said there was no urgency and that getting the decision right was more important than rushing through the process.

A couple of days later, Ainge appeared on a podcast with David Locke, and mentioned that the timeline could be similar to what it was when the team hired Snyder.

“I think Justin told me that it was about six weeks in the process of hiring Quin,” Ainge said. “I think we’re in a similar boat.”

On Tuesday Smith confirmed that there are still a large number of candidates but that the team has moved on to secondary interviews and is slowly narrowing its focus. As for Smith’s involvement in the search or in any of the offseason decisions, he’s trying not to get so hands on that he inserts his bias into the discussions.

“I will come in at the end and see the recommendations, see what they want to go do, and have long discussions and interview and meet the candidates,” Smith said. “But outside of that I don’t want to bias them.”

Though, he did seem enthusiastic about possibly making a splash to find a way into Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“I’ve been in the draft room twice and both times they’ve asked to acquire a pick, so absolutely,” Smith said. “Everyone wants to be able to try to figure out if there’s a young talent, especially with Danny’s track record. I mean, I’d love to get as many picks as possible. But, it’s a marketplace, so it has to be right.”

As for what changes could be coming beyond the draft, particularly where trades and roster shake-ups are concerned, Smith said that there would be a lot of buzz this week and in the weeks to come, as there always is during the NBA offseason.

Though Smith wouldn’t get into specifics about particular players, he did warn that not all of the rumors you read are true, or even close to the truth, saying that he has entrusted all player personnel decisions to Ainge and Zanik and the rest of the Jazz front office.