After years of partnership in Salt Lake City, Donovan Mitchell and Quin Snyder met again on Tuesday, but this time and moving forward – as newfound opponents.
Mitchell and Snyder, key characters of the Utah Jazz’ previous contending stage, battled it out as the Atlanta Hawks went on to prevail against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a close one, 120-118. Following the match, the two had a good reunion, with Mitchell’s mother joining the embrace.
It was a heartwarming moment for the Jazz fans, as both Mitchell and Snyder encountered themselves. The two, together with current Minnesota Timberwolves big man Rudy Gobert, were central figures of Utah’s mainstay in the Western Conference competitive echelon from 2018 up to last season.
But their era has ended last summer. Mitchell was traded to the Cavs, while Snyder took the coaching keys of the Hawks this midseason after the departure of Nate McMillan. As such, the mentor amid the split that happened can only commend his former student’s impact on the Cleveland team that is now finally playoff-bound without being tagged to its franchise hero LeBron James.
“He’s a winner,” Snyder said of Mitchell, who dropped 44 points against Atlanta (h/t Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor). “Anytime you value winning like he does, you’re willing to do the things it takes to win. I think there’s also a passion that he has for the game. He enjoys playing, and that’s infectious within a team.”
There is no other person who got a close bond with Mitchell than Snyder.
Mitchell, a young prospect from Louisville who entered the league in 2017, saw himself carrying the heavy burden of the Jazz upon the exit of Gordon Hayward in the offseason that year. Albeit young and inexperienced, Mitchell gained every ounce of confidence and optimism under the guidance of Snyder – which led to his leadership of Utah toward extended playoff appearances.
And for that, he can only be grateful for the teachings and mentorship he gained to reach the top.
“I’m forever grateful to Quin Synder,” said Mitchell. “He’s a hell of a coach and is going to have a lot of success here in Atlanta. He’s one of the greatest coaches in this game.”
Mitchell further admitted that despite their different direction now, he remains in contact with his former head coach.
His bond with Snyder is definitely more than basketball.
“No matter what happens in life, no matter what, he’s always a guy I can call and talk to about anything,” Mitchell said. “Not as much now because that’s tampering. But he’s a guy that literally gave me the ball, and trusted in me – a 20-year-old, 21-year-old who didn’t prove anything yet, just went out there and tried to continue to climb. When you have someone like that who trusts you, I’m forever grateful.
“He really helped me get to be the player that I am today. I think a lot of it’s deeper than just basketball with him. I’ve had so many life conversations just about anything and everything. I told him it was about time he came back. The game missed him.”
For Snyder, the same goes also on what he sees in Mitchell.
“Donovan and I were together a long time, longer than a player I’ve ever coached in college. We grew together and there is a special bond that develops as a result of that. The way he’s playing it’s not surprising to me even in the slightest. I think his efficiency has kind of grown. Anytime as a coach, where you see a player improve, it’s really rewarding, particularly someone that you care about so much.
“There’s some guys you just enjoy seeing every morning. He was one of those guys too. He just made it more fun. I think the world of him. I’ll always be close with him.”