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Loyola Maryland vs. Holy Cross is reunion for rookie coach Tavaras Hardy and mentor Bill Carmody

Loyola Maryland vs. Holy Cross is reunion for rookie coach Tavaras Hardy and mentor Bill Carmody
Loyola Maryland men's basketball coach Tavaras Hardy (right, seated) will try to guide the Greyhounds to a win against a Holy Cross team helmed by his former coach and mentor, Bill Carmody, in the Patriot League opener for both sides Thursday at 7 p.m. at Reitz Arena. (Larry French / Loyola Maryland Athletics)

Tavaras Hardy has not been a member of Bill Carmody’s coaching staff in almost five years, but he still finds himself parroting his former teacher.

During a recent Loyola Maryland men’s basketball practice, Hardy, the Greyhounds’ rookie head coach, approached forward Sam Norton, who was enduring a rough practice.

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“Did you go out last night?” Hardy inquired of the 6-foot-4, 199-pound senior.

“No,” Norton replied.

“Well, go out tonight,” Hardy quipped.

“That’s something that Coach used to say to us,” Hardy said Sunday. “… I replied just as Bill would, hoping that he would play better the next day. It was all in good fun. I will occasionally use one of his quotes.”

Thursday night’s Patriot League opener at Reitz Arena in Baltimore at 7 p.m. will pit Hardy and the Greyhounds (4-9) against Carmody and Holy Cross (9-4). Among intriguing matchups like Loyola’s No. 3 offense (73.7 points per game) against the Crusaders’ No. 1 defense (65.9) and Holy Cross’ No. 3 three-point shooting prowess (35.9 percent) against the Greyhounds’ No. 4 efficiency (35.7) will be the one along the sideline between mentor and protégé.

Hardy’s coach at Northwestern University during his junior and senior seasons in 2000-01 and 2001-02 was Carmody. Hardy later spent seven years as an assistant under Carmody for the Wildcats from 2007-14 until he parlayed stints at Georgetown and Georgia Tech into his current role at Loyola Maryland.

“He’s always been an incredible mentor for me and a great teacher,” Hardy said. “I have the utmost respect for him and what he’s been able to do at Holy Cross.”

Hardy, a Joliet, Ill., native, played his first two seasons at Northwestern for Kevin O’Neill, who was replaced by Carmody. Under Carmody’s tutelage, Hardy led the Wildcats in field-goal percentage, rebounds and blocked shots and continues to rank in the program’s career Top 10 in blocked shots, games played and games started.

Carmody said what he remembers most about his former 6-foot-8, 236-pound forward was his passion for the game.

“The main thing was that he cared,” Carmody said Monday. “He was a competitor, but he just cared. He wanted to get better, and he wanted the team to do well.”

After he graduated in 2002, Hardy played one season in Finland before returning to Chicago to work in wealth management at JPMorgan Chase and coach a local AAU team. But it was a conversation with former Northwestern assistant Craig Robinson, the brother of former first lady Michelle Obama who would go on to become head coach at Brown and then Oregon State, that convinced Hardy to consider moving to the collegiate ranks.

Carmody, however, initially resisted the idea of hiring Hardy.

“He had a degree from a pretty good school, and he was working in the financial district there in Chicago,” Carmody recalled. “I told him to think about it, to think about if you really want to do this. I knew he would be good, but I just said no. So I told him to call me back in a week, and then I brought him in and said, ‘OK, if you’ve thought through this …’”

Hardy, who was promoted to associate head coach for his final two seasons, said his admiration for Carmody’s coaching ability grew as he worked alongside him.

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“He has an incredible temperament, and his vision for things during games was what I really picked up,” Hardy said, adding that Carmody implemented offensive philosophies such as ball movement, on-floor spacing and improved long-range shooting from the perimeter and post players. “He sees things happening offensively and defensively and communicates that with the guys in the huddles. That was one of the main things I picked up from him — just how he sees the game and being able to communicate that effectively.”

Mitch Henderson played for Carmody for two years at Princeton and served with Carmody and Hardy until 2011 when he became the head coach for the Tigers. Henderson said Carmody made sure to delegate tasks to his assistants to give them a certain amount of responsibility and help mold them into head coaching material.

“He throws you into the fire,” Henderson said Sunday. “He encourages you to actively be a coach, to be a teacher, to see the game from the very first day that you’re there. He’s a basketball guy, and that’s what he wants you to be, and I think that bodes very well for when you get into coaching because there’s a lot of things you can do as a head coach, but at the end of the day, you have to teach, and that’s what Bill encouraged his assistants to do. I really appreciate that now because I was doing a lot of the same things I’m doing now when I was an assistant.”

Carmody is proud to see Hardy become a head coach, but he admitted that he loathes coaching against former colleagues.

“I don’t like to play against guys that I like,” he said. “So I don’t know what my emotions will be. I’m just going to go out there and just try to be neutral. But I know that he will be there, and he will know that I’m on the other bench. Once you throw the ball up in the air, you’re just coaching.”

Hardy said he is aware of his former coach’s discomfort about Thursday’s game.

“I was on his staff when he coached against Craig Robinson, and we played Brown, and I know for him, it’s not something he likes to do,” Hardy said. “For me, I always have and always will root for them except for when they’re playing against us or playing in a game that affects us. We’re all competitors. We all want to do what’s right for our programs and our jobs. So I think we’ll do what’s best and what’s right, and at the end of the game, we’ll shake hands and let the chips fall where they may. I know it’s going to be a tough challenge. He’s a very good coach, and he’s been there, and his guys understand what they’re trying to do. It’s just something that’s going to be a tough challenge for us.”

Henderson, the Princeton coach, said he fully expects Carmody and Hardy to be professional before the game and embrace each other afterward.

“For both of them, I believe it will be about the game,” he said. “It won’t be about Tavaras versus Bill. That will not be their approaches. It’s Loyola playing Holy Cross. That will be the approach.”

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