Utah Jazz: Will Hardy already has a head coach pedigree

Utah Jazz executive Danny Ainge (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz executive Danny Ainge (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /

The resignation of Quin Snyder, who coached the Utah Jazz to five consecutive playoff appearances and experienced great success with the organization, took many fans by surprise. The decision to then sign Will Hardy, a name that most are unfamiliar with, to a five-year contract to be the organization’s next head coach certainly raised some eyebrows. Despite his previous obscurity, Hardy is the perfect option to lead the franchise, given his prior coaching experience in and around the NBA.

Utah Jazz: Will Hardy was the best coaching candidate available

After playing basketball for Williams College and leading the team to a Division III national championship berth, Hardy took a job as a Video Intern with the San Antonio Spurs in 2010. He worked his way up to Video Coordinator in 2013, where he spent two years before being named an assistant to Greg Popovich’s staff in 2015.

Hardy recently made an appearance on Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast where he discussed how his role as the Video Coordinator was important to his success as an Assistant Coach in San Antonio. Hardy discussed how he would sit and watch game film with Popovich, one-on-one, and that the two would “end up having one-on-one conversations or disagreements about a particular clip.” These interactions helped Hardy develop a level of comfortability with Popovich, so when it came time for the Assistant Coaches to gather in the meeting rooms and discuss game plans, Hardy was not afraid to speak up.

Hardy was lucky, not just because he was given the opportunity to work one-on-one for such an extended period with the greatest coach ever in Popovich, but also because of who else he was able to work with as a part of the coaching staff during his time in San Antonio. Mike Budenholzer, Brett Brown, Sean Marks, Monty Williams, and Ime Udoka are just a few former San Antonio assistant coaches who received head coaching or general manager positions following their experiences in San Antonio.

With Assistant Coaches being poached from San Antonio on an almost yearly basis, Hardy quickly rose through the ranks on the Spurs bench. He was given the opportunity to coach the Spurs Summer League team from 2015 to 2018 which marked his first experience as a head coach in the NBA.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Hardy interviewed for head coaching positions in New York and Oklahoma City before ultimately agreeing to join his longtime friend, Ime Udoka, in Boston as the lead assistant coach for the Celtics. In their first and only season together, the duo led Boston to their first championship appearance since 2010.

Hardy is no stranger to the big stage of the NBA. In San Antonio, he was around championship-caliber basketball and witnessed both highs and lows with the Spurs. In 2013, he was a part of the Spurs team that was seconds away from capturing its 5th title since 1999, before Ray Allen hit a game-tying three in game 6 of the NBA finals to extend the series. In 2014, Hardy saw a team determined to overcome the agonizing defeat from the year before and win the NBA championship. Hardy knows the formula to build a winning culture and will look to create his own mark in Utah.

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Hardy’s coaching experience is impressive, but it is not the only thing that he brings to the organization. On Wojnarowski’s podcast, Hardy also discusses his relationship with Utah Jazz star, Donovan Mitchell. The two became friends during the 2019 FIBA World Cup when Hardy and Mitchell were both members of Team USA. Hardy reminisced about how his relationship began with Mitchell, talking about how the two of them would watch film after every game, bonding over basketball and life. Hardy spoke about his friendship with Mitchell saying that

"“The relationship started at such a good point because when it started we weren’t trying to get anything from the other.”"

While Mitchell’s future is still up in the air, it is seeming more and more likely by the day that the Jazz are asking for more than teams are willing to give up in a trade for Mitchell. If he does stay in Utah, Mitchell will continue to be the cornerstone of the organization and build upon an already strong relationship with Hardy.