September 25, 2022

The Utah Jazz are making NBA headlines today, but not in the commercial market. Reports have surfaced that Will Hardy will be hired as the franchise’s new head coach.

Why such news will naturally dominate the news cycle, another decision was made hot on its heels in hiring David Fizdale at the front office to serve as associate managing director.

Fizdale is a fixture in the league, as ESPN’s Wojnarowski notes. He started his career as an assistant for Golden State, Atlanta and Miami. With the Heat, he made a name for himself alongside Erik Spoelstra as a communicator and motivator, winning two championships during his “Big 3” era.

He became head coach for the 2016-17 season, where he spent two campaigns coaching Mike Conley and Marc Gasol at Memphis before moving to New York for two seasons before his dismissal.

Most recently, he was an assistant coach under Frank Vogel for the Los Angeles Lakers. David was born and raised in Los Angeles, attending the University of San Diego for four seasons where he earned his BA in Communications.

David Fizdale works with Dwyane Wade as an assistant coach for the Miami Heat.
Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A front office hire isn’t all that uncommon in the offseason, but to manage the team alongside active GM Justin Zanik and below CEO Danny Ainge raises some interesting questions.

Many believe that such a decision was due to minority owner Dwyane Wade, who worked closely with him in Miami as an assistant coach.

What does this mean for Justin Zanik?

Justin has had a rocky road in his quest for team management. He left the Jazz organization for the Milwaukee Bucks with the promise of becoming their next general manager. Ownership kicked him out of the role and he would eventually return to Utah under then-general manager Dennis Lindsey.

Zanik served as general manager for Utah when Lindsey was promoted to executive vice president of basketball operations. The hiring of Danny Ainge as CEO of the franchise spelled the death knell for Lindsey, who played an advisory role.

Is hiring Fizdale doom for Zanik, especially given Ainge’s ‘hands-on’ approach?

In the short term, Zanik is unlikely to leave his current role. It has become very popular to have multiple roles in team management.

The Toronto Raptors have a vice president, team president, general manager and assistant general manager.

The Washington Wizards have a President and General Manager, an Assistant General Manager, and a Senior Advisor to the General Manager.

The San Antonio Spurs have a CEO, a general manager, and a vice president of basketball operations.

In short, there seems to be plenty of precedent for teams of more than 3 staff in this “team management” role. However, the long-term future is not very bright for Zanik.

As with most ownership transfers, the new regime is often about squaring up “its” staff who adhere to long-term goals and are in sync with expectations and modus operandi.

Zanik is from the old regime which has already seen Snyder and Lindsey leave the franchise. Fizdale is Wade’s guy and Ainge can hope to groom him for a general manager role as a former coach and college athlete similar to him.

We’ll see what the future holds, but for now let’s welcome David Fizdale and Will Hardy as new members of the Jazz organization.