The Cleveland Cavaliers are full steam ahead to its first playoff berth since 2018, the year after LeBron James left Lake Erie for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Cavaliers’ renaissance is due in no small part to the help of Donovan Mitchell, who came to Cleveland by way of the Utah Jazz last summer.
And on Tuesday night, Mitchell got the chance to reconnect with his former Jazz coach Quin Snyder. The final result may have been a 120-118 Cavaliers loss to the Hawks, but for Mitchell, it was an absolute win seeing his old mentor and friend.
“I owe him a lot,” Mitchell said of Snyder, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “I’m forever grateful of Quin Snyder. He’s a hell of a coach and is going to have a lot of success here in Atlanta. […] He’s a guy that literally gave me the ball and trusted in me, in 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. And he really helped me get to be the player that I am today.”
Mitchell put on a show for his former coach, going for 44 points including a perfect nine-for-nine from the charity stripe. Darius Garland chipped in 27 points, as well.
Quin Snyder Calls Out Donovan Mitchell in Cavaliers Loss
Snyder and Mitchell build a wildly successful regular season team in Salt Lake City. Utah went to the postseason every year that Mitchell was on the roster and their teams never won fewer than 44 games.
Unfortunately for the tandem, though, the Jazz’s magnificent regular season play never translated into postseason success. In each of Mitchell’s seasons with the Jazz, the team was bounced from either the first or second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Nonetheless, Snyder relished in developing Mitchell’s talent with the Jazz, something he still thinks about today.
“Our relationship — it’s funny, I used to hear when people talk about college, in the NBA, you don’t get to connect with the player or mentor a player, whatever the case may be,” Snyder said postgame.
Snyder also praised Mitchell’s growth, noting that a “special bond” exists between the player and coach.
“Donovan and I were together a long time, longer than a player I’ve ever coached in college. In particular, when he came to the league, we grew together. And there is a special bond that develops as a result of that.”
Ultimately, the Jazz decided to go in a new direction last summer. Snyder stepped down as coach, Mitchell was shipped to Cleveland, and Rudy Gobert, his All-Star running mate in Utah, was sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Donovan Mitchell Reveals Advice to Hawks’ Trae Young
But when the Hawks fired Nate McMillan during last month’s All-Star Break, Snyder was tabbed to put the pieces back together.
Coincidentally, Snyder’s first game came right after the Hawks took on the Cavaliers. Mitchell was seen speaking with Hawks star Trae Young after the game when news of Snyder’s hire was making rounds.
“I explained to him that he’ll put him in positions that he didn’t even know he would be able to be in,” Mitchell said of his conversation with Young. “I think that’s the one thing that I learned from him, that I figured out being from Quin; like, you don’t understand how easy he makes the game for you.”
It’s been a mixed bag so far for Snyder and the Hawks, who have gone 7-8 since he took over. In addition, questions about Young’s ability to co-exist with coaches and teammates linger.