WASHINGTON — The Utah Jazz have the best record in the Western Conference at 10-3 and were the first team in the league to reach double-digit wins.
They have the second-best offensive rating in the NBA, a top-10 defense and they’ve done it in a season when no one expected it, led by a rookie head coach.
By all metrics and observations, Will Hardy is doing a pretty good job, but it’s not that easy for him to admit as much.
“That’s not for me to decide,” he said after the team practiced at Georgetown University on Friday. “
We all have a part to play to make it work. I have a job to do, our assistant coaches have a job to do, our players have a job to do, and for the team to have success that has to all be working in harmony, but I would say in no way is any of this because of me.”
That’s probably the diplomatic thing to say, and it’s probably the right thing to say to continue instilling confidence in a group that has shocked the NBA world through the first 13 games.
But without fail, before every game that the Jazz play, every single opposing coach gushes about Hardy and what he’s been able to do in such a short time with this Jazz team.
“He’s done a hell of a job,” Ty Lue said before the Jazz beat his Los Angeles Clippers.
That’s been the sentiment, and not just from the outside.
“A lot of people will say that players win games, but I mean, coaches can definitely screw it up,” Kelly Olynyk said with a laugh.
“I think he’s done a great job. He’s been really personable and good with the guys. He’s really kind of put us in situations to help us be successful. He’s given us structure and organization, but not to a point where you feel robotic or you feel like you’re constricted. He’s still letting everybody play free, be themselves and play to their strengths.”
Hardy might not have the head coaching experience of some of his peers, but he comes from a rich coaching background and couldn’t have come more highly recommended to the Jazz.
Taylor Jenkins, head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, got his start similar to Hardy, through an internship with the San Antonio Spurs.
That led to opportunities for Jenkins to coach the Spurs D-League affiliate team, (now the G League’s Austin Spurs), and that’s where Jenkins got to know Hardy.
The two have been friends for years now and so it’s no surprise that Jenkins would say good things about Hardy, but he also had insight into what kind of a coach Hardy would become.
“He’s always been a student of the game,” Jenkins said. “He’s got a great mind for basketball, he’s got great energy and obviously he comes from a place similar to me where standards matter, but it’s how are you going to have the energy to really instill those standards.”
That’s the next thing to look for from Hardy. Through 13 games he has this Jazz team playing at a very high standard and he expects a lot out of his players, but can he still get the same things out of the players 45 games or 65 games into the 82-game season? Time will tell.
For right now, Hardy has impressed everyone with the job that he’s done in Utah, even if he doesn’t want to admit that he’s been a huge part of the team’s early success.