Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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NBA Preview: San Antonio Spurs (14-47) at Utah Jazz (31-31)

Will Hardy, like Quin Snyder, who played for the Utah Jazz before him, is a product of the Gregg Popovich NBA coaching tree.

Hardy still can’t believe that, as the Jazz play the Spurs for the second time in a row on Tuesday in Salt Lake City. The 35-year-old coaching phenom reminisces vividly about his upbringing in Richmond, Virginia, where he played Division III basketball and had to work his way up from the bottom to where he is now.

Will Hardy, now 18, would be amazed to see how quickly he rose through the coaching ranks and established himself as a household name. The current Will Hardy coached in the Spurs’ system for years before making a brief stop in Boston on his way to Utah, where he has led a rebuilding Jazz team to an unexpected 31-31 record.

Hardy, whose Jazz team rallied to defeat the Spurs 118-102 on Saturday, is considered to be at home by Popovich.

Popovich claimed that when he brought Hardy onto the court with the players, he was impressed by his presence, behavior, wisdom, and even his wry sense of humor, all of which “commanded respect.” Hardy was promoted to bench coach as a result of that, which helped him gain Popovich’s trust.

After the Jazz acquired him as just one of many pieces in the Donovan Mitchell trade, Hardy has been credited with helping Lauri Markkanen, a leading candidate for Most Improved Player, develop into an All-Star this season. Markkanen is a leading candidate for the award. He has also helped young players like Walker Kessler begin to reach their full potential earlier than most expected.

All of that was on display on Saturday when Utah overcame a 14-point deficit to earn a lopsided victory over San Antonio. Despite the fact that the team traded away three key players at the trade deadline as a result of their offseason overhaul, it was their third win in four games.

Although he still finds it surprising that he is now coaching at the same level as his mentor, Hardy is enjoying the experience.

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