Before he became a reliable assistant for Ime Udoka last season in the Boston Celtics which served as his trampoline towards head coaching now, Will Hardy revealed that he found it hard initially to part ways with Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.
Speaking on The Woj Pod of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Hardy got real about his thought process and difficulties in leaving both Popovich and the Spurs franchise in order to take his acts to Boston.
“It was a hard conversation with Pop because, you know, I felt indebted to him and the entire organization,” Hardy said.
“I’m comfortable saying that I’ve worked really hard and I tried to be a good person. But I’m also not naive to the fact that the Spurs made me in some ways. I think they continue to give me opportunity on top of opportunities and they’re always so good to me and my family.
“So it was hard, and I went to Pop and basically I was like ‘If you don’t want me to go, I won’t go.’ And in a typical Pop fashion, he never, for one second, made me feel guilty or like ‘How could you do this to me?’ As a matter of fact, [he went] ‘Let’s talk about the good reasons to go and let’s talk about the negatives of going’ and ‘Let’s talk about it.’
“He and I sat down, had a really long conversation and by the end, he was great. He’s basically ‘You have to go.’ “
At a young age, Hardy immediately became a tactical talent. Starting as a video intern for the Spurs in 2010, he rose to the coaching ranks of the franchise and ultimately turned into Popovich’s trustworthy assistant starting in 2015.
Popovich took him under his wings for a few more years and went on to develop into a greater basketball mind. He was called up to be with him on the coaching sidelines of the USA Basketball’s eventual Olympic 2021Gold Medal run – a testament to the wits he possesses.
Ultimately, Udoka found his interest in Hardy and recruited him to be his top assistant for the Celtics team in the 2021-22 season. His defensive concepts and ideas helped propel the franchise in having a marvelous midseason turnaround and a trip to its first NBA Finals in 12 years.
Now as the neophyte bench boss of the Utah Jazz, the 34-year-old Hardy continues to carry the torch and teachings of his mentor in his own ways. Defying odds and expectations of a potential rebuild, Hardy is in front of Utah’s unprecedented and scorching stronghold of the competitive Western Conference ladder, as his high-spirited ball club is raising eyebrows with its red-hot 8-3 to start the new campaign.