You Can Either Focus On The Adversity Or The Opportunity

Coach Quin Snyder Utah Jazz

During the press conference immediately following Game 7 of the 2017 1st Round series between the Utah Jazz and LA Clippers, Quin Snyder offered this nugget.

He used the above (Title) phrase while explaining the resiliency of his team all season and thru the series. I have been a fan of Quin since his days as a Point Guard with Duke University from 1985-1989. He came to Duke after a stellar high school career in Mercer, Washington. While in high school, Quin was the State Player of the Year in both his Junior and Senior year. He was a prime time McDonald’s All American. He had (and still does) have the look of a star with the ability to work a room with his presence and personality. Once at Duke, he proved to be a steady if not flashy contributor. In fact, his Duke teams made the Final Four 3 out of the 4 years he was there. He enjoyed huge academic success, double majoring as an undergraduate and receiving his MBA and Law Degree while serving as an Assistant Coach under Coach K. Quin was an Academic All American which adds to his reputation for being extremely intelligent. In 1999 at the age of 32, Quin was selected as the Head Coach at Missouri, replacing the retiring Norm Stewart. He actually beat out John Calipari (of Kentucky fame) among others for the job. He was seizing the opportunity and actually lead the team to the Elite 8 in 2002. (You can thank Duke for ending that run).

After all, Quin could have used his MBA or Law Degree to work as a nicely paid executive with a number of willing firms. Instead, he accepted a $75,000 head coaching job with the Austin Toros.

Quin enjoyed quite a bit of success but most people only remember how it ended for him at Missouri. The school was placed on probation, he went thru a public divorce, and his skills were questioned. It ended quite unfavorably for him in 2006. He took a break from coaching to reflect on the adversity and evaluate his priorities and next steps. He did not make a rash decision as he considered what was in his best interest both personally and professionally. In 2007, he was hired to coach an NBA Developmental team in Austin, TX. This was a long way from Duke and Missouri.  He had actually served a year as an Assistant for Larry Brown with the LA Clippers back in 1992 prior to going back to Duke in 1993. Some might have shaken their head at this career choice. After all, Quin could have used his MBA or Law Degree to work as a nicely paid executive with a number of willing firms. Instead, he accepted a $75,000 head coaching job with the Austin Toros. As a point of reference, his last salary was over 1 million a year at Missouri. Quin saw this as an opportunity to rise above the adversity he experienced a year earlier. In his three year stint, he lead the team to extraordinary results and caught the attention of several NBA Teams. During his tenure, he was confronted with several obstacles with available players, locations to play, and general disinterest from a fan or attendance perspective.

There was an incident during one of his practices that really spoke to the human side of his experience. The normal practice site was unavailable so his team went to a local recreation center. While there, he was approached by the manager of the facility. She asked how long practice would last as this facility opened it’s doors to the homeless to shower once a week. You have been to the final four and have coached at a major Division 1 school. Now, you are being asked if you could end practice early so that the less fortunate could enjoy something most of us take for granted each and every day. A hot shower! Quin later described this as a humbling example of how the opportunity was really a result of the adversity he had faced. He immediately ended practice and sat in the bleachers while people passed by on the way to the locker room. Some of them waved at him while a few others said thanks. Did they know Quin Snyder, a former basketball star at Duke? No, they did not They only knew that he had ended practice so they could take a shower.

That moment had a profound impact on both Synder and those who were benefiting from his decision. Did he focus on his own adversity or was this an opportunity? In my view, the level of adversity he had faced lead to a decision that provided a moment of hope to others. In 2010, he stepped back into the NBA with stints as an Assistant with the Philadelphia 76’s, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, as well as a stint in Russia (interesting choice but a part of his journey) His sacrifice, perspective, and keen insight into the opportunity lead him back into the Head Coaching conversations.  There have been numerous times where successful head coaches at the college level attempt to transition to the pros with mixed results. Yes, we have seen coaches like Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan do a decent job. Yet, we’ve seen coaches like Rick Pitino and John Calipari have what I would consider less than stellar outcomes. However, Quin took a route in the professional ranks that prepared him for this particular stage he is now enjoying. His adversity was not anyone else’s. Therefore, his pathway may not have worked for other coaches.

He sought new Opportunities based on the lessons he learned from the Adversity he experienced along the way. His experience in Austin caught the attention of Dennis Lindsey, who at the time was the Assistant General Manager of the San Antonio Spurs. They were the parent team of the Toros. Dennis became the General Manager of the Utah Jazz in 2013. After a short transition, he quickly decided the team needed a new direction. Guess who made the shortlist for consideration? Yes, the same coach who had dealt with obstacles to the point where he coached a developmental team and even questioned if he wanted to continue coaching. Quin’s approach during his valley experiences created a new opportunity for himself. In 2014, Quin Snyder became the head coach of the Utah Jazz and quickly asserted himself into the national conversation of up and coming new coaches. His ability to motivate, prepare and guide a diverse group of professionals toward a collective excellence has served Quin well. At this writing, Utah just won a seven-game series with the Clippers and now have the opportunity to take on Golden State in their first playoff 2nd round series in over 8 years. Some are probably saying Utah is set to deal with the adversity of playing the 2015 NBA champions and last year’s runner up. However, Quin mentioned several times how this year has brought about a number of opportunities thru certain adversities. They probably are not favored by anyone but I am not going to count out a team lead by Quin Snyder.

I go back to the above quote attributed to Quin Snyder. “We can either focus on the Adversity or the Opportunity.” I strongly believe the Adversity creates the Opportunity. We have to get out of the emotion of the adversity and setback to determine the lesson. More importantly, how do we pivot toward a new outcome? 

We have had situations where everything went well and fell into place. It is more pleasant and perhaps easier to focus on the Opportunity when everything looks and feels good. However, it is another story when you are facing Adversity with limited options. Mind you, there are always options. We merely have to find the How To in dealing with the necessary transition from Adversity to Opportunity. Now, Quin Snyder had options he could have used with any of the four degrees he earned at Duke. (Pretty amazing when you consider most struggle to get one). His willingness to step back serves as a relevant example. We benefit by looking beyond the moment. Understand the relevancy of the Adversity to identify the clarity of how to identify the potential opportunities. Did Quin have an NBA Head Coaching job in his sights back in 2007 when he was coaching in Austin? I could be wrong but I have not seen evidence of that from any of his interviews. Whatever the adversity, there is always a pathway towards a new opportunity. It will not always be clear cut and requires a focus that perhaps we have not used to this point. However, be encouraged that the answer and the solution will come out of the adversity. We simply have to pay attention to the signs.

I look forward to the 2nd round series between the Warriors and Jazz. Whatever the outcome, I have learned a lot from the example of Quin Snyder. He has lived the ups and downs while continuing to see the Opportunity thru the Adversity. Perhaps the lesson we can gain is thru the experiences of others. However, we have to recognize the talent we have towards determining the pathway of our own success. I have learned time and time again that my best opportunities came right after some of my most difficult moments. So, when Quin Snyder articulated this view, it resonated and shifted my lens. It really comes down to how we perceive the obstacle to achieve the result. Quin’s quote was confirmed by the level of obstacles he has faced in his own journey.

All of us are going thru something. Let’s face it; some days are a real challenge. Some adversities can really kick our behinds. However, it is when we look at the Opportunity within the Adversity that we see a new pathway towards our own success. We see things in a clearer light while also measuring it from a perspective of being humbled. Going back to that day in Austin, Texas, Quin was confronted with a decision regarding something as simple as ending practice. Why? So someone who was less fortunate could enjoy a moment of dignity while standing under hot water with a bar of soap and a washcloth. I cannot overstate the importance and impact our journey has on others. Once we get out of ourselves long enough to identify what is most critical, we begin to make choices that lead us to some pretty awesome opportunities. You may not like the Adversity. It is probably not designed for our pleasure or entertainment. It is, however, our education and calling card towards making the necessary adjustments to identify and enjoy the benefits of the Opportunity.

You have a choice. You have a decision. Do you focus on the Adversity or do you focus on the Opportunity?

Chris Adams
CHRIS has over 30 years in the Hospitality Industry serving in a number of emerging and diverse roles. His specialty has been in the area of Staff Development, Organizational Enhancements, Task Force Management, and Public Relations. He has worked for several brands such as Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, and several Independents. An advocate for strong community relationships, Adams has served on numerous boards and Non-Profits in an effort to bridge certain gaps towards better understanding and inclusion for all. Additionally, Adams serves as a Legal Task Force Consultant assisting Law Firms in developing case positions via mock juries, selection, and development of media strategies. These efforts have provided further strength towards mediation and successful case resolutions


  1. The perspective you share I what it takes to create success out of failure. I know nothing about the debacle that changed the trajectory of Quin’s life, but I know he used it to improve his life and the lives of those he influenced. I am a firm believer that we must focus on what we have left, not on what we’ve lost. That seems to be the theme of this biography. I especially appreciate this quote. “We benefit by looking beyond the moment. Understand the relevancy of the Adversity to identify the clarity of how to identify the potential opportunities.”




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