Will Hardy will have work cut out for him with a rebuilding Utah Jazz team
New coach will play 2022-23 season with the hand he is dealt, which will include a bevy of young and inexperienced faces
When the Utah Jazz brass hired 34-year-old Will Hardy to become the ninth head coach in franchise history, they knew what was likely coming.
A rebuild was on the horizon, and over the last few weeks, with the trades of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the immediate future of the Jazz has come into focus.
Hardy is not going to be coaching a team of All-Stars that are headed for playoff appearances and title contention. He’ll be coaching a losing squad of young players, many of which could be gone by the time the rebuilding process takes a turn toward contention once more.
Instead of finding a way to win basketball games and using schemes and sets to get an edge over the competition, Hardy will have two main objectives — development and keeping up morale.
Easier said than done.
Development is an obvious task and one that can largely be planned out with Hardy and the coaching staff working closely to figure out which young players will have what it takes to be either legitimate NBA starters or role players. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.
Learning curves are going to have to be managed and adapted to, and there are going to be hurdles along the way. There is also going to be exciting moments, when players start to show their potential and break out of their shells.
But the more difficult task is making sure that the spirit of a rebuilding team is not broken by the process.
Losing can take its toll on a team and can easily damage the morale of young players. Most of the rookies and young prospects in the NBA are not far removed from highly decorated collegiate careers and successes, so they aren’t used to losing a lot. And make no mistake, the Jazz are going to be losing a lot.
Imagine going from playing a college season where you finish with a record of 34-6 and winning a national championship, getting drafted into the NBA and going on to losing nearly twice as many games as you won in college.
That could be the case for Ochai Agbaji, who was picked No. 14 overall and just traded to the Utah Jazz from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the deal for Donovan Mitchell. It’s hard to go from being a winner, to being a loser.
It’s the job of a head coach in that situation to make sure that the players are able to recognize the developmental wins, even if the game results do not match up, and to see a bigger picture down the road.
Again, this is all easier said than done.
The Jazz knew that this was going to be a part of the job when they hired Hardy and they signed him to a five-year deal with that knowledge, so the Jazz ownership and front office have confidence in Hardy.
What’s left is for Hardy to make sure he instills the same type of confidence in the players who will be on this ride with him.