Jazz Coach Will Hardy Leans Into ‘Team 49’ Identity

Sep 26, 2022, 3:35 PM
Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy (Scott G. Winterton: Deseret News)
(Scott G. Winterton: Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – While “Take Note” may still be the official hashtag of the Utah Jazz, new head coach Will Hardy sold the “Team 49” identity during media Monday.

The Jazz are entering their 49th season as a franchise dating back to their humble beginnings in New Orleans, though Hardy used this phrase as a rallying cry for the identity of the roster.

“We know who we have and this is the 49th team in Jazz history,” Hardy said. “And that’s our focus, team 49.”

The moniker may sound more like the chapter of a local labor union than it does Quin Snyder’s high finesse offenses of years past, but that might be by design.

The Jazz will look significantly different without Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert on the roster, and Hardy is leaning into the new, grittier identity.

“There’s a collective toughness, we have a lot of guys that have a chip on their shoulder,” Hardy said. “And I think that’s really powerful to have guys that are competitive and feel like they have something to prove.”

Despite having the top defensive player on the planet patrolling the paint during their three-year run near the top of the Western Conference, the Jazz were routinely outclassed by tougher opponents around the league.

The team’s perimeter defenders failed to keep opposing guards out of the paint in each of their last three playoff runs, while they struggled to maintain their offensive identity against tougher defenses.

In an effort to remedy the Jazz’s former ills, Hardy again drew on the strength of the team as a collective rather than focusing on an individual.

“They need to work and train hard together, I think that helps to build some camaraderie,” Hardy said. “I think secondly, structuring how we play and helping them understand that this is a team and that not one of them can try to shoulder the load and save us. They’re going to have to rely on each other.”

New Coach, New Terminology

Quin Snyder was known for having unique basketball terminology among coaches in the league. One of Hardy’s first challenges will be to introduce his new vocabulary into the locker room.

“We sort of speak four languages sometimes, there’s a lot of different terms for the same actions,” Hardy said. “That’s been a huge part of our preparation for camp is getting the staff on the same page as far as terminology.”

There will be some carryover from the last Jazz era as Hardy, like Snyder, comes from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree.

Even Ime Udoka, Hardy’s last mentor in Boston is a former member of the Popovich ladder.

“Some stuff will be familiar, some stuff will be new,” Hardy said. “Some stuff is from places I’ve been, some stuff is from places that the assistants have a comfort level. It’s really a blending of all that so that we’re all saying the same thing.”

Hardy, his new terminology, and the 49th iteration of the Jazz will take the floor for the first on Sunday for their preseason opener against the Toronto Raptors.

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