SALT LAKE CITY — Will Hardy knew some of the inner workings of the Utah Jazz before he was named the league’s youngest current head coach.
Of course, it was 2009, and he was just an intern.
Prior to his senior year at Williams College, he spent eight weeks in the business operations department, spending his mornings with the Jazz, his afternoons helping the Salt Lake Bees — a Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels — and his evenings at the gym rehabilitating after hip surgery.
One of Hardy’s initial assignments was to show Vivint Arena, a building he had never entered before his internship. That hasn’t held him back – and his ability to adapt on the fly could now serve the Jazz well.
“These (tours) were adventurous for sure,” Hardy said. “I was learning the building as I went.”
Utah introduced Hardy as coach on Tuesday. The 34-year-old, who was an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics, will steer the ship as the team navigates a rebuilding process with All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell as its cornerstone.
The change began when Quin Snyder resigned in June after eight seasons, followed by trades that fired three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale and brought in Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverly. The team also collected an assortment of NBA first-round picks to use as building blocks.
Hardy is ready to embrace any direction Jazz CEO Danny Ainge and General Manager Justin Zanik decides to take.
“I trust Danny and Justin,” Hardy said. “Their background and history speaks for itself. But they were really open and communicative with me and collaborative throughout the process.”
Hardy’s coaching philosophy won over Ainge and Zanik during the interview process. Ainge said they put him through drills to learn his approach to everything from scouting reports to player development plans.
“Yeah, he’s 34, but he didn’t feel like 34 to us and we didn’t really pay attention to it,” said Ainge, whom Hardy impressed with his basketball acumen. “He just seemed very mature, very prepared…many times in his responses he was speaking my language.”
Hardy beat veteran NBA coaches Frank Vogel and Terry Stotts for the job during an extensive process that included final interviews with team owner Ryan Smith and minority owner Dwyane Wade.
“It seemed like after the few stages we went through, Will was our guy and we couldn’t be more excited,” Ainge said.
Another thing that caught Ainge’s attention was Hardy’s commitment to frequent practice because, for him, repetition is central. But it doesn’t have to be the traditional 90 minutes, Hardy said.
“We have to reframe that a bit. Training can be 30 minutes. The middle of the season can be tough. The schedule is grueling. … But I think to create habits and know what it’s like to get it right, you have to do it at full speed,” Hardy said.
Hardy has some, albeit limited, experience coaching with a few players currently on Jazz’s roster. He was an assistant in Gregg Popovich’s team when Rudy Gay played for Spurs from 2017 to 2021 and helped with Team USA – which Mitchell played for – at the 2019 Basketball World Cup.
Hardy knows he needs to get the team back on track after chemistry issues caused Utah to collapse late last season.
“Tenacity, sacrifice and passion are the three most important things to me,” Hardy said. “I want our group to be deeply competitive and able to deal with adversity. I would like everyone to recognize that it’s bigger than them individually. Everyone is going to have to step out of their zone a bit. comfort as we move forward.”