SAN ANTONIO, TX – Recent Williams graduate Will Hardy ‘10 (Richmond, VA/St. Christopher’s School) would likely admit that his chances of making the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs as a player were greater than a million to one. His chances of getting a spot on the basketball operations side of things with the Spurs, in the General Manager’s Office, were only 1 in 70. That comes to about a 1.5% chance of getting hired, which is much better than one in a million!
And you thought getting into medical school was tough.
A key role player for the Ephs for four years, Hardy will have a chance to put his experience as a player who needed to be ready for any situation to good use in the highly competitive NBA, where he’ll be involved with all aspects of basketball operations with the Spurs. Hardy’s title is Basketball Operations Intern.
In the NBA there are two sides of the business – Business Operations (sales and marketing) and Basketball Operations (team support, player development, and whatever else it takes to prepare the team to compete).
Hardy’s main duties will revolve around managing the Spurs’ scouting database of top college players, current NBA players the Spurs are looking at for trade possibilities, and international players. “I’m ready to do anything they ask me to do,” notes Hardy. “They need someone to run to the airport, I’m on it. I just want to get in there and learn the business.”
|Will Hardy from downtown|
This past season, when the Ephs posted a record of 30-2 and finished second nationally, Hardy came up big in three important victories. In a key NESCAC regular season game matching no. 4 Ephs against no. 8 Middlebury, a key hoop by Hardy turned back the home standing Panthers. Middlebury had scored nine-straight points in just under three minutes to cut the Eph lead to 53-52 with 9:09 left. Hardy then drilled his only shot of the game, a deep three from the right side, setting off a 15-5 Eph run. The Ephs won 64-59 to keep their hold on first place in NESCAC.
At archrival Amherst, with the game tied at 37 and less than a second left in the first half and an Eph on the free throw line, Eph head coach Mike Maker hurriedly rushed Hardy into the game. The front end of the Eph one-and-one ticked the rim and Hardy was perfectly positioned to tip it home at the buzzer. The lift of the timely tip-in carried into the first four minutes of the second half, when the Ephs outscored Amherst 13-3, and eventually won going away 81-60. That win clinched a second straight outright Little Three title for the Ephs.
Against Middlebury in the NESCAC title tilt in Chandler Gym it was another second half three-ball dagger from Hardy, this time from deep in the corner by the Eph bench, that turned back a Middlebury surge and helped the Ephs capture the 2010 NESCAC crown. “A lot of people didn’t expect Will to take that shot,” Maker said. “Will has good basketball instincts, knows his game and he took and made his shot.”
It was a long process to secure the position of Basketball Operations Intern against 69 other candidates, but Will Hardy is glad he did and glad he had the support of current Eph head coach Mike Maker and former Eph head coach Curt Tong. Tong coached the Ephs from 1974 through 1983, taking a year’s sabbatical in the 1981-82 season.
Hardy found out about the job opportunity with the Spurs through Tong, whom he’s become quite close to over the last 18 months. “Coach Tong knew that I’d spent the previous summer working with the Utah Jazz in marketing/sales and he asked if I might want to try the other side of basketball in an NBA team office,” states Hardy, who greatly values having Tong as a mentor and friend.
|Hardy scores in traffic|
Tong, after leaving Williams, went to Pomona-Pitzer where he served as athletic director. Popovich was the Sagehens basketball coach at the time and it was there that their friendship blossomed and they’ve become best friends. The connection between Tong and Popovich is deep and true, with the Tongs making an annual trip from Williamstown to Boston to see the Spurs and Pop versus the Celtics. Many a summer Popovich will make a trip to the Berkshires to visit Curt and his wife, Jinx, and a short time ago he purchased a large parcel of land just over the Vermont line in Pownal. In the years when the Spurs play in the NBA Finals the Tongs are guests of Pop in San Antonio.
It was a conversation between Tong and Popovich that got Hardy involved in the Spurs search for a Basketball Operations Intern. “I asked Pop what he was looking for and I told him I thought I knew someone who might be a good fit,” said Tong. “Then I encouraged Will to call Pop. They hit it off on the phone and I just knew he would be one of the finalists.”
“I have to say that one of the best things about getting this job with the Spurs was being able to call coach Tong and let him know,” comments Hardy. Tong brushes aside any credit, instead offering, “Coach Maker has been very kind to allow me to get to know the young men playing for him and Will is a good man, so it made it easy for me to recommend him.
“I was really excited to hear later from Will that he got the job because even though the Spurs are a professional team, they conduct their business in a very collegial, family-oriented way. This opportunity with Pop and the Spurs should open some doors for Will in the NBA.”
Every couple of weeks Hardy would get a call from San Antonio letting him know he was still involved with the search. Eventually he got called to San Antonio for an interview with R.C. Buford, and later he met Gregg Popovich. “Popovich is really just a nice guy who loves and respects Division III,” Hardy said.
“We’re all really happy for Will that he’s getting this opportunity with one of the great franchises in the NBA,” says Maker. “Last summer he worked for the Jazz with Jerry Sloan and now he’ll be with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs – two of the best organizations in the NBA. I know Will appreciates the opportunity in front of him and I’m confident that, with his work ethic, persona, and willingness to make everyone around him better, he’ll make an immediate impact on the Spurs.”
Hardy is the second Eph hoops player in the last six years to catch on with an NBA team. Michael Crotty, point guard on the Ephs’ 2003 NCAA Champions, was the director of player development for the Boston Celtics through their most recent championship, before leaving to enter the business world.
“This is such an unbelievable opportunity and I’m incredibly excited to be here,” says Hardy. “To be able to move from college into a field that I love and am passionate about is incredible. I’m working for arguably the best organization in professional basketball and am looking forward to getting my hands dirty and learning as much as I possibly can about how to achieve success in the NBA and professional sports. The people I’m working under have been amazing and are not only truly gifted at what they do but are also extremely approachable and very willing to help and teach me.”
Hardy’s goal is to become a general manager of an NBA team in 10 years and has found the right spot to be nurtured in San Antonio. The Spurs have long been known for their development of basketball operations personnel and one of the most recent success stories is Sam Presti, who at just 31 is GM of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Hardy, who started his NBA career on August 20th, will work under the direction of three highly regarded professionals in Vice President of Basketball Operations Danny Ferry, General Manager R.C. Buford and Head Coach Gregg Popovich. Popovich at one time served as the Spurs’ GM.
Friendly with many members of the Williams men’s and women’s soccer teams, Will Hardy is going to be rooting extra hard for both Eph teams to advance to the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio in the fall so he can cheer them in person, if that is even possible with the 24/7/365 demands of his new job.