Tim Hardaway didn't want to leave the Miami Heat, didn't want to leave South Florida. But he also desperately wanted to coach.
So he decided to put his Heat ties to use. Thursday, the former Heat All-Star point guard confirmed to the Sun Sentinel that he will be joining Stan Van Gundy's Detroit Pistons staff as an assistant coach.
For Hardaway, who has spent recent years working for the Heat as a scout as well as a community and corporate liaison, it is his first NBA coaching job and the first time he has served as a coach since guiding the Florida Pit Bulls of the minor-league American Basketball Association to a 19-8 record in 2006 at what now is the BB&T Center.
"As soon as Stan got that coaching and president job, I called him and said, 'I want to help,' " Hardaway, 47, said, with Van Gundy a Heat assistant coach during Hardaway's prime seasons in South Florida. "I said, 'I want to come coach with you.' "
Hardaway had been prodding Heat President Pat Riley for years about a coaching role, but the Heat staff largely has remained intact from when Riley coached. Hardaway in the interim had lobbied for an assistant role at Florida International University when his longtime friend and rival Isiah Thomas held the coaching job there. Instead, Hardaway was given an increased role in the Heat's scouting department in recent years.
"Stan asked Pat if he could talk to me and Pat said yes. That's how it started," Hardaway said.
"I knew with the Heat there wasn't a chance because of so many people in front of me, and I didn't want to step on toes. I was humble to the Heat and thanked them for my opportunities."
The Heat retired Hardaway's No. 10 in 2009.
"It's tough leaving there," he said, having joined the Heat in 1995-96, Riley's first season as Heat coach. "I've been here for a long time. I've been a Miami Heat for a long time. I've got a lot of great friends in Miami. I thank Micky [Arison, the Heat owner]. I thank Pat. I thank the Heat organization for what they've given me."
Hardaway offered his comments before leaving for the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., where former Heat teammate Alonzo Mourning will be inducted Friday. Mourning's No. 33 is the only other Heat number retired. Hardaway, a Hall finalist, fell short of induction this year.
Mourning is a Heat front-office executive, with another three years remaining on that contract.
"I'm happy for Zo, I'm ready for the festivities up there for Mitch [Richmond, Hardaway's former Golden State Warriors teammate]," he said. "I'll wait my turn for that, but right now I can't wait to get started with Stan."
Hardaway already is used to working the enemy, with his son, Tim Hardaway Jr., debuting with the New York Knicks last season. Among those who will join Hardaway on Van Gundy's Pistons staff is former Heat forward Malik Allen.
"When I first called Stan, he said, 'Are you sure?' I said I was sure," Hardaway said. "We had a first meeting and then we had a second meeting that went well. I've waited for a lot in my life and I've waited a long time for this. I know I'm ready now."
Riley issued a statement shortly after the Pistons announced the addition of Hardaway:
"Micky and I, and the entire organization, couldn't be more thrilled for Tim as he embarks on the next chapter of his basketball career. Tim was one of the cornerstones of this franchise for six seasons; providing excitement to fans in Miami and all over the country with his dazzling moves and killer crossover, and he has been a franchise pillar since the day he arrived in Miami. But most of all, he has been an important figure in the South Florida community."
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