The Utah Jazz hired Will Hardy — an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics — as their new head coach to fill a vacancy after Quin Snyder abruptly stepped down in early June. At 34, Hardy is now the NBA’s youngest active head coach.
Hardy spent last season as an assistant coach with the Celtics after Ime Udoka added him to his staff. The Celtics won the Eastern Conference and secured a spot in the NBA Finals before they were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in six games.
The Jazz hope Hardy can instill some of the Celtics’ defensive philosophy, which is one of the reasons why Boston came very close to winning a title.
Utah finished the regular season at 49-33, securing the #5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They lost in the first round to the #4 Mavs even though Luka Doncic missed the first two games of the series with a calf injury.
The Jazz is one of three NBA teams that made six-straight postseason appearances. Despite their success in the regular season, they could never get over the hump and win a Western Conference crown under Snyder, which is one of the main reasons he stepped down.
The Jazz are +4500 odds to win the 2023 NBA Championship next season, and the news about Hardy’s hiring had no affect on the futures board.
The Jazz didn’t wait for long before finding a new head coach. Assistant coach Alex Jensen was a leading contender, along with former Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant, but the Jazz liked what Hardy brings to the table. Hardy never played in the NBA, and he was only a D3 player at Williams, but he earned Gregg Popovich’s trust as the smartest guy in the room.
Despite being on 34, Hardy is a branch on the Popovich coaching tree. According to local sources in San Antonio, the Spurs groomed Hardy to become Pops’ successor. Hardy quickly rose through the ranks during his 11-year stint with the team. He started out in the Spurs’ video room before earning a coveted assistant coaching job under Pops.
“It’s always just been about being selfless,” said Hardy. “Coach Pop says all the time: ‘Get over yourself. It ain’t about you.'”
The Jazz offered Hardy a five-year deal, which seems excessive for a rookie head coach. He won’t even be 40 when his contract ends, but the Jazz don’t like changing their head coaches. In the last 33 seasons, Hardy will be the Jazz’s fourth head coach behind the legendary Jerry Sloan, Tyrone Corbin, and Snyder.
The Jazz hope Hardy can get the team to come together after a well-publicized fracture in the locker room when stars Donovan “Spida” Mitchell and Rudy Gobert had a falling out.
Hardy will be tasked with trying to persuade Mitchell to remain with the Jazz, even though Spida is rumored to be leavingt Salt Lake City and joining the New York Knicks in a trade. The Jazz are actively shopping big man Rudy Gobert to keep Mitchell in Utah.