James Hardy was only 27 years old and had just begun his professional career when, somewhat anxiously, he entered the office of then-new Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle.
Hired in August 2007, Hardy spent three seasons as the Buffaloes’ strength and conditioning coach before head coach Jeff Bzdelik was replaced by Boyle. As is typically the case during that sort of regime change, Hardy braced himself for the possible news that Boyle wanted to bring in his own guy.
“I hoped I’d proven myself to the people at CU and with coach Bzdelik,” Hardy said. “But I was 27 years old and they were bringing in a new coach. I remember walking into Boyle’s office and just being straightforward, asking if he was brining in his own guy. Tad just looked at me and said, ‘I talked to the guys and they love you. I’m going to keep you.’ “
After nine seasons with CU men’s basketball team, Hardy departed for a similar post with the New England Patriots following the Buffs’ loss against UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Hardy played a part in reshaping a program that went 36-58 in three seasons under Bzdelik to one that has made four NCAA Tournament appearances in six seasons under Boyle, in addition to a semifinal berth in the NIT.
Given Boyle had more pressing concerns following the NCAA Tournament — namely replacing departed assistant coach Rodney Billups with Bill Grier, then hitting a recruiting trail that became a more immediate need after Tre’Shaun Fletcher and Kenan Guzonjic announced their plans to transfer — the task of filling Hardy’s spot was shifted down the to-do list.
With veteran leadership anchoring the Buffs’ current work in the weight room for the interim this spring, Boyle hopes to announce a new hire in mid-May.
“We’re still working on that. Recruiting has kind of taken the center stage for us,” Boyle said. “Originally I would’ve liked to get someone in a week ago, but the process takes time and it’s about getting the right guy. We’ve got some very capable strength and conditioning coaches in the athletic department that can cover basketball for these weeks. And the guys in the weight room we have now know what’s expected of them. We’ve got veteran leadership in the weight room with our players right now that kind of lessens the urgency factor.
“Change sometimes is good. It brings new blood, new ideas, new energy into the program. We’re very pleased with the job Rodney did here and the job James did here, but they’ve moved on to bigger and better things for themselves professionally.”
For his part, Hardy insists he was perfectly content at CU, but that the opportunity to move to the NFL was too enticing to pass.
“I loved it at CU, but when an NFL team calls you, you pick it up,” Hardy said. “A great opportunity came my way. I certainly wasn’t looking. We turned the program around and I was a small part of that. It was really fun and I took a lot of pride in it. It was a very difficult decision.”