‘Whispers Growing Louder’: Celtics Coach Could Replace Spurs’ Gregg Popovich

Celtics assistant Will Hardy a favorite to replace Spurs' Gregg Popovich

Getty Team United States Head Coach Gregg Popovich poses with Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant and Jerry Colangelo during the Men's Basketball medal ceremony.

The Boston Celtics chose to shake things up this offseason on the heels of a disappointing first-round playoff exit in 2020-21. Brad Stevens moved upstairs, replacing long-time President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge. As for Stevens’ successor on the sidelines, the Cs opted for former Spurs assistant Ime Udoka to man the head coaching duties.

With Udoka’s hires came a plethora of other San Antonio-rooted additions to the Celtics staff. A number of former Spurs assistants and players followed Udoka to Beantown, including assistant coach Will Hardy. However, Celtics fans may not want to get too attached to the Gregg Popovich understudy, as his stay in Boston may be nothing more than a pitstop in an inevitable return to San Antonio.

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Hardy Named a Favorite to Succeed Popovich

According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, “there’s a growing belief in league circles that Popovich, after leading Team USA to a gold medal this summer and just 26 victories shy of passing Don Nelson for the NBA’s all-time wins record, could finally walk away from San Antonio’s sideline following the 2021-22 campaign.” If that proves to be the case, Hardy is believed to be a frontrunner to replace Popovich at the helm come next season.

“Will Hardy, the respected Spurs assistant who just joined Ime Udoka’s staff in Boston, has been considered a favorite for the job in recent years,” wrote Fischer. “Hardy is a young understudy who learned at Popovich’s right hand, similar to how Jon Scheyer rose to replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.”

Fischer noted that should the Spurs opt for a first-time head coach such as Hardy or franchise great Manu Ginobili, league observers believe San Antonio would combine that hire with an experienced chief assistant. One name floated was former Sixers head coach Brett Brown, who previously spent nine seasons on San Antonio’s bench as an assistant.

Background on Hardy

Hardy spent a decade in the Spurs organization, getting his start as a basketball operations intern in 2010. He spent the following season as the team’s assistant video coordinator before being promoted into the lead role in 2013 — a position he manned through 2015. From there, the former Williams College basketball player officially entered the coaching ranks, working the past four seasons as a Spurs assistant coach as well as serving as San Antonio’s Summer League head coach from 2015-2018.

“What helped me in San Antonio was access, transparency. They let me be in film sessions. There’s pretty much an open-door policy with the assistants that you work with,” Hardy said at the 2020 coaching panel. “Brett Brown, when I worked with him in the video room, I sat in his office all day and almost watching him go through his process, asking him questions, he’d ask me questions, and starting to learn how he was getting to his answers. How he was evaluating a team we were going to play and how he was figuring out what he was going to do for the game plan. So I try to do that for any of the video guys that work for us now.”

At the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Hardy got a chance to work with Celtics stars Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart as part of the Team USA Staff. He’ll look to further work his magic with Boston’s young core for at least this season. However, considering how highly Hardy is regarded in NBA circles, it’s likely only a matter of time before he punches a ticket out of Massachusetts and jettisons for a head coaching opportunity.


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