Utah Jazz select Will Hardy, former Spurs and Celtics assistant, to be their next head coach

Utah Jazz select Will Hardy, former Spurs and Celtics assistant, to be their next head coach

The 34-year-old is reportedly finalizing a 5-year deal with the Jazz

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Will Hardy during an NBA summer league game in 2015. Hardy accepted an offer to become the new coach of the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

The Utah Jazz have chosen a young, fresh face to lead the organization forward.

Former San Antonio Spurs assistant and current Boston Celtics assistant Will Hardy has been offered the Utah Jazz’s head coaching job and plans to accept, according to reporting from ESPN and The Athletic Tuesday. The Tribune first reported that Hardy was a leading candidate on Saturday.

The hire of Hardy signals a long-term focus from the organization. In selecting Hardy, they eschewed coaches like Terry Stotts, Mike D’Antoni, or Frank Vogel with previous head coaching experience to right the Jazz’s ship immediately. They also skipped on hiring someone with explicit ties to superstar guard Donovan Mitchell, like former Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant, or to Rudy Gobert, like current Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Hardy, 34, will be just the sixth head coach of the franchise since they moved to Utah in 1979, and looks set to sign a five-year contract.

According to a league source, Hardy strongly impressed the Jazz in the multiple interviews he had with team executives, making the selection “easy.” Hardy wasn’t necessarily considered the frontrunner when interviews began, but he “blew away” the Jazz decision-makers in interviews, and those who had worked with him in San Antonio and Boston were extremely positive about Hardy as an NBA head coach.

That set Hardy apart from other finalists for the job, which ESPN reported included Jensen, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, and Celtics assistant Joe Mazzulla.

On Tuesday, the Jazz were also reportedly set to bring aboard longtime NBA coach David Fizdale, but not to Hardy’s coaching staff. Instead, they’re hiring him as an associate general manager to work alongside CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik. ESPN was first to report the hire.

Hardy played college basketball at Williams College in Massachusetts, then found a role with the Spurs as a video intern thanks to a mutual friend who knew Spurs coach Gregg Popovich well in 2010. He was officially named Spurs team video coordinator from 2013-15, after which he was promoted to assistant coach.

“(Popovich) said, ‘You are now a coach of the San Antonio Spurs,’ ” Hardy told the Boston Globe in an interview last year. “I was stunned and happy and scared to death. I remember calling my wife and saying, ‘I’m pretty sure Pop just made me an assistant coach. I don’t know. I’ve got to get some clarity on this, because he said it so quickly, as only Pop can. And then he hung up on me.’”

Six years later, when fellow Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka was hired by the Celtics to be their next head coach, Udoka hired Hardy to be among his lead assistants. Hardy never overlapped with then Celtics general manager and current Jazz CEO Danny Ainge, who stepped down from his Boston job in the June 2021, while Hardy was hired later in the month.

Udoka and company then took the Celtics to the NBA Finals this season, before losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games.

Hardy will also be the youngest head coach in the NBA. In fact, he’s younger than two players currently on the Jazz’s roster, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley.

But Hardy says that he has a similar approach to some of the NBA’s old-school coaches, too; in particular, his mentor Popovich. He told a 2020 coaches’ convention about how the Spurs culture demands hard work:

“If you’re not actually doing all those things every day, then your culture is nothing,” Hardy said. “So it’s always been about being selfless. Coach Pop says all the time, ‘Get over yourself. It ain’t about you.’ No one person is bigger than this and that goes from him all the way down.”

This story will be updated.

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