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Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy can be very serious at times. He’s not a coach that’s afraid to yell at his players or show frustration.

“We try our best to remind the players that you can be competitive, you can be professional, you can care about winning, you care about all the right stuff, and you can enjoy it. You can be a 23-year-old professional basketball player in the middle of your dream.” — Jazz coach Will Hardy

But Hardy can also be very goofy — joking around with players, trying to hit shots while sitting in a courtside seat at a morning shootaround, having free-throw battles with players, admitting that he has imposter syndrome as an NBA head coach.

He often tells his players that fun in the NBA is underrated and that while he wants them to be competitive, he also wants them to enjoy the fact that they are living a dream.

“If they were 16 years old, their dream was to make it to the NBA, then right now they’re in the middle of a dream and you’re allowed to enjoy it. This should be the best time in your life,” Hardy said. “There’s a day where it’s all over. You’ll look back and it’s all just memories at that point ... we try our best to remind the players that you can be competitive, you can be professional, you can care about winning, you care about all the right stuff, and you can enjoy it. You can be a 23-year-old professional basketball player in the middle of your dream.”

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There’s no doubt that NBA players have bad days at work like everyone else, but when Hardy thinks about why there are players that are having less fun than they should be, he thinks that it has to do with the pressure, the competitive nature of the business and expectations that come from every direction.

“Everybody’s trying to succeed, trying to win, trying to make a name for themselves. In some ways guys are trying to solidify themselves in the league — getting contracts and things like that,” Hardy said. “I think there’s a lot of pressure from fans, media, there’s high expectations. It’s a highly scrutinized business and I think we understand that. And sometimes I think that can be really distracting.”

Hardy is sure to make clear that he doesn’t think guys should stop taking losses hard or that anyone is above criticism. The NBA might be a dream, but it’s not a perfect world and there are going to be bad moments. But he also doesn’t want anyone to think that just because they see a player laughing or people joking around that it means they aren’t taking their job seriously.

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“It’s like if you’re laughing and smiling, then you’re being goofy and you don’t care about winning and I just don’t think that those two things are mutually exclusive,” he said. “I think you can do both.”

So, although he can be a tough coach, and can be really intense and barks at his players when they make mistakes and is just as competitive as any of the players on the Jazz roster, he makes sure to frequently tell them to make sure they’re having fun.

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This week on ‘Unsalvageable’

Check out “Unsalvageable,” hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster).

This week the crew talks about landing spots for Victor Wembanyama as well as the rise of Ochai Agbaji and the importance of “connective tissue” players like Kelly Olynyk.

New episodes come out every week. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

Stat of the week

On March 11, in a win over the Charlotte Hornets, Talen Horton-Tucker was very near breaking the Utah Jazz’s triple-double drought when he scored a season-high 37 points to go along with his 10 assists and 8 rebounds.

From the archives

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Former Utah Jazz center Felton Spencer dies at 55
Top NBA draft prospects for Utah Jazz fans to watch during the NCAA Tournament

Extra points

  • Collin Sexton will remain sidelined as he nurses nagging hamstring injury (Deseret News)
  • Remembering Dirk Facer, who never lost his talent to make people laugh (Deseret News)
  • Kelly Olynyk has been the Utah Jazz’s ‘connective tissue’ this season (Deseret News)
  • How the corner-3 became the easiest shot in the NBA (ESPN)

Around the league

Michael Jordan is in talks that could lead to sale of Charlotte Hornets.

The Sacramento Kings have clinched their first winning season since 2006.

Bulls’ Lonzo Ball to undergo third knee surgery, could miss most of next season.

Up next

March 22 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trail Blazers | AT&T SportsNet
March 24 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks | AT&T SportsNet
March 25 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Sacramento Kings | AT&T SportsNet
March 27 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns | AT&T SportsNet

Utah Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk high-fives teammate Ochai Agbaji (30) as Sacramento guard De’Aaron Fox walks away.
Utah Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk high-fives teammate Ochai Agbaji (30) as Sacramento guard De’Aaron Fox walks away after the Jazz beat the Kings at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on March 20, 2023. | Ryan Sun, Deseret News