On Dec. 7, Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy had a night he won’t ever forget.

It was a raucous game at Vivint Arena against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Jazz were trailing by four points with less than 15 seconds left in the game and then improbably came back to win it in the final seconds.

“I kind of forgot that when you’re the head coach, I guess your words have more weight than you’re used to. So yeah, I almost got a friend of mine banned from the arena forever and arrested. So I’ll remember that one forever.” — Jazz coach Will Hardy

The crowd was insane, the players were screaming, the broadcasters were losing their minds, rookie Simone Fontecchio had a career night, scoring the game-winning bucket while his Italian national team coaches were at the game to watch him play. It was wild and chaotic and incredible.

But none of that is why Hardy will remember the night.

“I actually had a friend who was in town who’s a Warriors fan,” Hardy said. “He was there with his boss from San Francisco and a couple people from work. They were there for something and they were sitting like six rows away from the bench.”

As the final buzzer sounded and the crowd erupted, Hardy turned toward the crowd, pointed at his Warriors fan friend, and yelled a very loud, very intense-sounding, expletive-laced jab at his friend.

Imagine you’re watching a game with one of your closest friends and you are rooting for opposite teams. When your team wins, you are going to rub it in that friend’s face with the fury that only friendship can endure. Roasting friends during sports is a time-honored tradition and it’s one that Hardy is impressively well-versed in.

The thing is, when you’re the head coach of an NBA team, you kind of have to be careful what you’re yelling, when you’re yelling, and who you’re yelling at.

“He got rushed by security because they thought that he had said something to me,” Hardy said with a laugh. “I got in the back and we went and talked to the team and then our security guy came up to me and said, ‘Hey, don’t worry. We got the guy. He’s in the back. We’re going over the film. He’s going to be banned from the arena. Don’t worry about it. We’re gonna figure out what he said to you.’ And I was like, ‘Huh?’” 

Jazz security made quick work of the situation, which, under different circumstances would have brought everyone a lot of peace of mind. But under these circumstances, it terrified Hardy’s friend, made Hardy laugh until he was nearly crying, and reminded Hardy that he is a head coach in the NBA and everything he says and does is a little more powerful than it used to be.

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“I kind of forgot that when you’re the head coach, I guess your words have more weight than you’re used to,” he said through more laughter. “So yeah, I almost got a friend of mine banned from the arena forever and arrested. So I’ll remember that one forever.”

It’s just one more story that makes Hardy who he is.

The first-year Jazz coach has admitted many times this season that he often has to pinch himself.

He’s not used to fans screaming his name, asking for his autograph. He’s not used to seeing himself in the same kind of lights that other NBA celebrities are in.

“Like anybody, I suffer from impostor syndrome at times,” Hardy said in February. “I still sit up here in front of you guys (reporters) and have my moments where I’m like, I’ve no clue why any of you want to know what I think about anything.”

One of Hardy’s best traits, one that the Jazz front office has praised, that the players appreciate, and that helped him get through his rookie season as an NBA head coach, is that he is completely fine just being himself.

He’s competitive and serious when it’s called for and he’s lighthearted and uses humor to defuse situations. He isn’t afraid to make fun of himself and he wants everyone around him to not take things so seriously that they forget to have fun or laugh.

So, as Hardy moves into his first offseason at the helm and his second season as head coach of the Jazz, he’s going to take to heart the weight his words hold, but he’ll also make sure to still be the guy that roasts his friends and laughs at himself. 

Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith laugh at something head coach Will Hardy said during Jazz-Nuggets game.
Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith laugh at something head coach Will Hardy said during Jazz-Nuggets game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 8, 2023. Hardy and the Jazz provided some quality fun and entertainment in what was a rebuilding season. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News