After trading away Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert this offseason, the Utah Jazz spent all offseason making moves to find out ways to get a star back in Utah. It appears they may already have one in new head coach, Will Hardy.
Marc Stein’s recent substack had some interesting notes about Will Hardy. First, he talked about Will Hardy and his success in Utah.
Hardy’s first month’s worth of regular-season games has been absorbing for circumstances that have a whole league flummoxed.
During training camp, more than a few of Hardy’s peers in the coaching business could be heard wondering aloud if he was secretly regretting his acceptance of the Utah job, given what happened to Ime Udoka in Boston. Had Hardy stayed as an assistant coach with the Celtics, he presumably would have been elevated to head coach rather than Mazzulla once Udoka was suspended for the season for a relationship with a female co-worker that Celtics officials deemed to be in violation of team policy. Hardy’s departure to succeed Quin Snyder with the Jazz, at age 34, positioned Mazzulla, also 34, to take over for Udoka.
Good luck finding anyone fretting for Hardy any longer. The Jazz awoke Monday with a record of 10-5 — with Philadelphia needing a 59-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist, seven-swat masterpiece Sunday night from Joel Embiid to hold them off and dislodge Utah from an undisputed hold on the Westʼs No. 1 seed. This is the same Jazz team, of course, that was widely expected to tank its way to the best lottery odds they could muster in the Brick For Vic(tor Wembanyama) Sweepstakes.
Everyone in Jazzland was probably wondering the same thing after the departure of Udoka in Boston. Every report about Hardy was that he was a major part of what the Celtics did in Boston and, had he stayed in Boston, there’s no doubt he’d be head coach there.
Nothing has proven how valuable he was to Boston as his success so far in Utah. The Jazz’s incredible start to the season has been one of the biggest stories in the league. They’re not just at the top of the league in the standings but in offensive and defensive rankings. The players deserve a ton of credit for buying in, but it’s clear that Hardy has made buying in easy with a free-flowing style of play that emphasizes team-first basketball. It’s truly a joy to watch.
Stein went on to add some more insider information about Hardy and his predecessor, Quin Snyder.
We’ve written on numerous occasions this year about how Hardy’s Utah predecessor, Snyder, is regarded in league coaching circles as San Antonio’s preferred choice to take over the Spurs when Popovich decides to step aside. Yet it’s likewise believed in coaching circles that Hardy was very high on the Spursʼ list of potential successors and the most likely favorite from the assistant ranks — ahead of Becky Hammon or anyone else you wish to list — had Popovich decided it was time after last season.
Mark it down as another early season W for the 10-win Jazz when so few were expected at this juncture. They appear to have replaced an eight-year fixture like Snyder with the right hire.
What would have happened if the Spurs had to choose between Snyder and Hardy? After reading this from Marc Stein, it appears that Hardy would have likely been the guy.
Calling Hardy the right hire may also be an understatement. He’s already looking like a frontrunner for Coach of the Year in his short time leading the Jazz. If they keep up this level of winning, that may be a lock.
The major goal of this offseason was clean house of all the stagnant pieces that didn’t fit the future timeline and that cleaning of the house brought a huge amount of picks and young assets. It’s clear now that the Jazz have already found a star in Will Hardy.
Now, with so many different paths the front office can take, one thing is clear, they need to find the right championship pieces for the roster. If they can do that, it’s clear that Hardy is the coach that can take them all the way.