Ex-Jazz player Jacque Vaughn played a big role in the development of new Jazz coach Will Hardy

When Hardy was just starting as an intern in San Antonio, Vaughn was an assistant under Gregg Popovich, and they had an interaction that would prove momentous in the former’s career.

“A lot gets made of working for Pop, and that’s real, but at the same time, I look back on all the assistants that I worked for and with, and you learn so much from from those people as well,” coach Will Hardy noted before the Utah Jazz’s 117-106 loss to Brooklyn on Friday night.

“And Jacque was one of those people like that.”

Jacque would be ex-Jazz point guard and current Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn, a former assistant coach in the San Antonio regime under legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, where Hardy got his NBA start as a front office intern.

To Hardy’s point, he has been asked ad nauseum this season about coming up in the Spurs organization under Popovich, going from intern to video room coordinator to assistant coach himself — but it wasn’t just the head coach who was giving him a basketball education.

Hardy told a story about how when he was still just an intern, he asked Vaughn — then an assistant coach with the Spurs — if he had time to instruct him on both the broad strokes and the intricate nuances of the team’s scheme.

“I still have a notebook in my office from when Jacque taught me the offense in San Antonio,” he said. “… I send him a picture of that notebook at some point during every year, just kind of thanking him, because that moment, for me, was big.”

Fifteen minutes or so later, Vaughn was almost incredulous at the revelation.

“He’s sharing too much with you guys!” he exclaimed, laughing.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) gets some instructions from Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy, in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Brooklyn Nets at Vivint Arena, on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.

Vaughn would go on to say it was not really that big of a deal, that there was an organizational culture in San Antonio for the guys higher up the food chain to look out for and help the people in positions below them, to try and “make each other better.”

Indeed, Quin Snyder — the man whom Hardy replaced as the Jazz’s head coach — once spoke of being the coach of the Spurs’ G League affiliate in Austin, but getting invited to hang out with and be a part of the Spurs’ staff during Summer League and pre-playoffs strategy sessions, and what an impact that would come to have on his nascent NBA career.

Beyond that initial X’s and O’s session, Hardy and Vaughn also got closer during the NBA’s 161-day lockout in 2011.

And while the now-Brooklyn coach may downplay what he did as nothing significant — “That’s just the relationship that we had” — the now-Jazz coach sure doesn’t see it that way.

“That was a big moment of growth for me,” Hardy said. “To have him take that time of his to really sit down and 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.”

The two have remained close over the years — even as Vaughn departed the Spurs in 2012 to become the head coach of the Magic, then returned to be a scout for the Spurs in 2015 after being fired by Orlando, then joining the Nets a season later as Kenny Atkinson’s lead assistant.

Hardy said he and Vaughn “are very close, really good friends.”

Vaughn concurred.

“He is an unbelievable human being, and we had a lot of good years together,” he said. “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.”

He does remain a bit incredulous about his protégé of sorts, though.

“I can’t believe he has the notebook still,” Vaughn said, shaking his head and laughing.