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The 'big moment' between Hardy, Vaughn that played a major role in the Jazz coach's development


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SALT LAKE CITY — At least once a season, Will Hardy will send a picture of an old notebook to Brooklyn Nets coach Jacque Vaughn.

To most, the contents of the notebook would appear as nothing but meaningless scribbles from years ago. To Hardy, though, it's a reminder of the kindness of an old friend.

It turns out, there's a sentimental side to the young Jazz coach.

Hardy has been asked repeatedly during his first season about his time under Gregg Popovich. Hardy started as an intern with the San Antonio Spurs before he moved and learned the video room, and then eventually sat next to Popovich on the bench.

For a decade, Hardy learned under the person many believe to be the greatest basketball coach. That, naturally, draws some questions, but it was more than just Popovich that was there.

When Hardy had just started out with the organization, he asked Vaughn, who was then an assistant coach in San Antonio, to explain the Spurs' offense to him. He recorded their conversation in that notebook, and he's kept it ever since.

"That was a big moment of growth for me," Hardy said. "To have him take that time of his to really sit down and, like, dig in and teach me the ins and outs of our offense was huge for me as an aspiring young coach in our video room."

When asked about that specific meeting, Vaughn jokingly exclaimed: "He's sharing too much with you guys!"

It's less about the contents of the notebook, though, for Hardy. The notebook is a memento of a time where someone sat down and helped him on his journey. So he sends the picture to say thank you to Vaughn, and also to remind himself to have that same type of kindness to the next generation of coaches.

"It's moments like that with Jacque — and I've had tons of other assistants that I worked for and with over the years who have done some similar type things in different situations — that, as a young coach, makes you want to kind of pay it forward and pay it back to the young guys that are with me," Hardy said. "Because I know that so many people have taken their time and energy to teach me and helped me learn and grow along the way."

Vaughn downplayed the meeting a bit, and said that was just the type of relationship the two had while with the Spurs. He even hinted that just about everyone in that organization built a similar one, or at least tried to. It was part of the culture in San Antonio for everyone to make each other better — that included the coaches.

The Jazz have been the benefactors of that before Hardy's time, too. Former coach Quin Snyder was the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs' G League affiliate, but he was still invited to planning meetings and strategy sessions, and said multiple times the impact it had on him.

Hardy and Vaughn have felt that same impact.

"He is an unbelievable human being, and we had a lot of good years together," Vaughn said about Hardy. "I'm so happy for him. This place deserves someone as good-natured and (as) unbelievable a coach as he is. So I'm proud of him — pulling for him."

And "this place" holds a special place to Vaughn. The Nets coach played his first four seasons in the NBA in Utah under the late Jerry Sloan — and, yes, those years shaped how he is as a coach.

He spoke about how Sloan was able to strip complicated things down and make them simple. Sloan made his unique offensive system simple; he made expectations for players and the team simple; he made relationships on the team simple. That stuck with Vaughn.

And so have the memories of his time in Utah.

"If the camera could get pretty close, you would see this scar right here," he said, as he pointed above his eye. "That's a John Stockton scar."

He relayed how he got caught with an elbow during his first training camp when he tried to guard Stockton. Longtime Jazz broadcaster Ron Boone then chimed in and asked if he remembered a specific play Utah would run.

He smiled and said: "Oh, yeah, it's amazing the stuff that comes back to you, the things you still remember."

Especially if you have, like Hardy, a memento to remember them by.

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