When Quin Snyder began coaching the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League, he reached out to Dave Joerger, then an assistant coach with Memphis but also a veteran of coaching the minor leagues of basketball.
Snyder simply wanted some pointers about how to coach at that level after having been a college coach.
Snyder, now the head coach for the Utah Jazz, said prior to Wednesday’s game against the Kings at Golden 1 Center, said that was an important moment for him as he moved up the coaching ranks.
Snyder was complimentary of the job Joerger and his coaching staff have done since the All-Star break when DeMarcus Cousins was traded to New Orleans.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
The Kings have fallen in the standings, but the coaching staff hasn’t conceded that losing is the only option. The Kings entered Wednesday with consecutive wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies, two playoff-bound teams.
Snyder is admittedly biased because he has a relationship with several Kings coaches, but he still finds himself impressed with the coaching job by the staff.
“What they’re doing with their team is really, really impressive,” Snyder said. “They’ve got a young group of guys that they’re teaching, they’ve got some older guys who have stepped up in leadership roles. They’ve all put the team in front of themselves and that’s a credit to them, really and his leadership that the team has bought in to what they’re doing. They’re getting better and it’s not surprising they’ve beaten some people.”
Joerger’s coaching job with Memphis and to start the season with the Kings is drastically different from what it is now. In Memphis, he inherited a team coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
“Having been there with those guys (in Memphis) I felt a great deal of responsibility to maximize every win that we could get,” Joerger said. “That’s where are these gray hairs popped out. Now the gray hairs are (from) are you playing the right guys with the right group, developing guys, giving them the right experiences?”
He started this season with the Kings with a team filled mostly with experienced players before the shift to focus on youth and hoping for luck in the NBA Draft Lottery.
That means being cautious with how he uses young players, too.
Rookie Skal Labissiere’s last three games are examples of being judicious. Labissiere had to deal with All-Star and elite defender Draymond Green (Golden State), a past All-Star in Blake Griffin (Clippers) and the rugged Grizzlies, who have Zach Randolph in the frontcourt.
They are the kind of opponents much more likely to make it tough on a rookie than the struggling Phoenix Suns, who surrendered Labissiere’s career-high 32 points on March 15.
“Try to pick and choose those spots to give guys opportunities to be successful,” Joerger said. “To learn and at the same time not compromise any chance for us to compete for a win. It’s an interesting road to walk.”
Snyder said the Kings are in a similar situation that he faced in his first season with the Jazz, when the team made a February trade to shake up the roster and dealt Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City.
Sndyer praised Joerger’s approach for the improvements and effort the team continues to play with.
“I thought we were fortunate in my first year to have a similar situation where we just got comfortable with each other and everybody was trying to get better,” Snyder said. “You go into games trying to improve and it always works out when you’re pure like that, you play well and you win. What he’s doing to me, is a credit to their whole staff.”
Joerger can see that effort on the defensive end. The Kings have struggled defensively since the trade, but have held their previous two opponents under 100 points.
“I think we’re getting after people,” Joerger said. “It’s easy this time of the season, it shouldn’t be this way, but you let go of the rope and that’s the first place that you do because it’s hard, it’s a grind, it’s physical. It takes extra effort, it takes a level of toughness. The technical part is secondary to the mindset, we’re trying to go out there and compete and that’s the positive of it.”
Night off – Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple were the Kings veterans given the night off for planned rest.