FILE – Former San Antonio Spurs summer league head coach Will Hardy looks on during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game against the Utah Jazz on July 7, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Boston Celtics assistant Will Hardy has accepted an offer to become the new coach of the Utah Jazz, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Boston Celtics assistant Will Hardy has accepted an offer to become the coach of the Utah Jazz, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Tuesday.
Hardy and the Jazz were in the process of finalizing contract language, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side announced the deal publicly.
Hardy will become an NBA head coach for the first time. He will replace Quin Snyder, who decided to leave the Jazz earlier this month after eight seasons.
ESPN and The Athletic first reported the agreement between Hardy and the Jazz.
Hardy spent one season in Boston, helping the Celtics reach the NBA Finals. His previous 11 seasons were spent with the San Antonio Spurs, starting as a basketball operations intern, moving into the video room and eventually becoming an assistant under all-time wins leader and five-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich.
Hardy also assisted Popovich during USA Basketball’s appearances at the 2019 Basketball World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Hardy left San Antonio for Boston to work for another former Spurs assistant, Ime Udoka, who took the Celtics to the finals in his first season as a head coach.
And given the success of the Popovich coaching tree in the NBA, it’s no wonder the Jazz decided Hardy was the right hire.
Consider the roster of current NBA and WNBA coaches who have played for, worked for, coached under Popovich, or some combination thereof.
Golden State’s Steve Kerr just won his fourth title as a coach — beating Udoka, Hardy and the Celtics in that series — and ninth championship overall. Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer led the Bucks to the 2021 NBA title. Phoenix’s Monty Williams guided the Suns to the NBA’s best record this season and made the finals last year. Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins led the Grizzlies to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference this season. Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers has won an NBA title, Sacramento’s Mike Brown went to the NBA Finals in his second season as a head coach in Cleveland and Becky Hammon has the Las Vegas Aces off to the best start in the WNBA in her first season.
Clearly, those who learn from Popovich know how to win.
And Hardy has had the can’t-miss coaching label on him for some time.
“It’s always just been about being selfless,” Hardy said while appearing at a Rising Coaches seminar last year. “Coach Pop says all the time: ‘Get over yourself. It ain’t about you.’”
Utah was the only team in the NBA with a coaching vacancy and became the fourth team to complete a hiring since the regular season ended. Sacramento hired Brown, the Los Angeles Lakers hired Darvin Ham, Charlotte brought back Steve Clifford for a second stint and now the Jazz are turning their team over to the 34-year-old Hardy, who is younger than some players in the NBA.
Hardy also inherits a roster that’s capable of winning.
The Jazz are one of three teams to make the playoffs in each of the last six seasons; Boston (with eight) and Milwaukee (six) are the others. Utah won 49 games this season and Snyder went 372-264 with the Jazz.
But he decided he needed a change, and Utah set out on its process. The Jazz talked to several assistants from all over the NBA before selecting Hardy, who will become only the fourth Utah coach in a span of 33 years — following Jerry Sloan, Tyrone Corbin and Snyder.