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Utah Jazz forward Elijah Hughes (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
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Jazz Welcome New Faces To Utah

Utah Jazz forward Elijah Hughes (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz largely favored continuity during the offseason, bringing back the majority of last year’s roster while also re-signing former Jazzman Derrick Favors. However, the Jazz also added a handful of new faces to the roster and coaching during the shortened hiatus. With practice limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, the team faces some challenges getting familiar with its new roster.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder added three new coaches, Dell Demps, Keyon Dooling, and Sergi Oliva of to his bench after having to replace Johnnie Bryant, Zach Guthrie, and DeSagana Diop.

Meanwhile, the front office drafted Udoka Azubuike and Elijah Hughes, then signed Trent Forrest to a two-way contract, and added guard Jake Toolson and big man Romarao Gill to Exhibit-10 contracts.

With the team limited to individual workouts through the first days of camp, getting familiar with one another is a new experience.

Day One with the Utah Jazz

Day one at any new job can be intimidating. Day one as an NBA player, trying to compete against the best athletes in the world is a whole other story. The Jazz welcome their rookies with a wealth of information before they step on the floor.

“We have a packet of video and plays, and more than anything, terminology,” Snyder said of the team’s preparation process for rookies. “You can’t give it to them all at once.”

To make the process more difficult, this year’s rookies did not get the luxury of a summer league to familiarize themselves with the team’s playbook, much less the speed of the NBA game. COVID-19 has only made the transition harder.

 

“We’re only allowed right now to have one coach and one player per court,” Snyder said. “So that makes it a little more difficult. Whether we’re putting up a few cones, suddenly our coaches are getting better workouts than they have in a while, so it is a challenge.”

But the challenge does lie solely with the players. The coaches must also find a way to familiarize themselves with the new players on the roster.

“As far as [Azubuike] goes, having seen him play in college, you can you can find the  Kansas game on TV,” Snyder said. But that access didn’t extend to rookie forward Hughes who played fewer seasons at Syracuse.

“I wasn’t as familiar with Elijah initially,” Snyder said. “Because I just don’t watch as much college basketball.”

Despite the unfamiliarity, the Jazz are excited about their new crop of rookies.

“It is a challenge,” Snyder admitted, “But it’s always great to have young players that are enthusiastic about getting better.”

New Coaches on the Jazz Staff

In addition to the five rookies the Jazz invited to camp, three new coaches will grace the Jazz bench. Despite each addition having a long history in the NBA, none of the three have done much high-level coaching.

Dell Demps joins the Jazz after last serving as vice president of basketball operations for the New Orleans Pelicans. The longtime NBA front office member was relieved of his duties in light of the pending rebuild in New Orleans. Instead of seeking out another front-office job, Demps embarked on a new journey on Snyder’s bench.

“We had coffee for three straight years before our D league games when he was the general manager,” Snyder said of his former boss with the Austin Toros. “We’d go to a Starbucks across the street from the Austin Convention Center.”

Snyder left the Toros to be an assistant coach in the NBA, while Demps was hired by New Orleans.

“I always knew Dell wanted to coach,” Snyder said of his longtime friend. “And I think he brings a unique skill set.”

In addition to Demps, Snyder added longtime NBA veteran guard Keyon Dooling to his staff, as well as former Philadelphia 76ers front office assistant Sergi Oliva.

Dooling’s relationship with Snyder stretches before their careers in the NBA.

“Keyon played for me at Missouri before he went to the NBA had a 13 year in the NBA,” Snyder said. “He was a leader on every team he was on and has been working with the Players Association.”

Dooling averaged 7.0 points, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 rebounds during his long NBA career. Since retiring, the former guard has worked as a motivational speaker and with league players on mental health issues while managing their basketball careers.

“He’s got a really unique experience not just from the league but on a personal level,” Snyder said.

Oliva has perhaps the most unique background of any new face on the Jazz bench. The assistant coach has a Ph.D. in complexity theory from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

Despite his impressive education, Oliva also has experience as a coach for youth and senior amateur players in Catalonia.

“He was in the front office in Philadelphia and helped build their analytics program and all the strategic analysis that goes into that,” Snyder said. ” So he’s teaching me as we go.”

The new Jazz faces will make their debut on December 12 as the team hosts their first preseason game against the Phoenix Suns at Vivint Arena. The team will have three preseason games total before beginning the regular season on December 22.