Tim Hardaway, who combined with Alonzo Mourning to help lead the Miami Heat to four consecutive Atlantic Division titles and was at the epicenter of the compelling Heat-Knicks rivalry during that era, said Thursday he is leaving his job as a Heat scout to become an assistant coach on Stan Van Gundy’s staff in Detroit.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said by telephone. “It’s something I wanted to do. It’s all about teaching. I’m good at teaching and understanding players.”
And he was comfortable with Van Gundy, who was an assistant coach during Hardaway’s time with the Heat. “Stan and I have great rapport,” Hardaway said. “[Heat president] Pat Riley said it’s a great thing for me and he’s happy for me.”
Hardaway – who will join Brendan Malone, Bob Beyer, Charles Klask and former Heat forward Malik Allen on Van Gundy’s staff – said a coaching job on Erik Spoelstra’s staff wasn’t realistic because “there are guys before me here and I didn’t want to take anything from them.”
The Heat acquired Hardaway from Golden State in a midseason trade in 1995-96, and Hardaway and Mourning – over the next 5½ seasons – led the Heat to its most success as a franchise up to that point, though kidney disease sidelined Mourning for most of Hardaway’s final season with the team.
Hardaway, 47, was first-team All-NBA in 1996-97 and fourth in MVP balloting. The Heat traded Hardaway to Dallas for a second-round pick in August 2001, and he later finished out his career with Denver and Indiana.
He worked as a scout and community and corporate liaison for the Heat for the past three years, and he was given more scouting duties than ever before this past season.
“It’s going to be hard, going to be sad [to leave the Heat],” he said. “There will always be a big place in my heart for the Heat, Micky Arison, Pat Riley. It’s bittersweet.”
Hardaway – whose son Tim Jr. plays for the Knicks – also used the word “bittersweet” to describe Friday’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, which he will attend in Springfield, Mass.
Mourning and Mitch Richmond, Hardaway’s close friends and former teammates, will be inducted Friday, and Hardaway – who was a finalist – hoped to be inducted as well. (Richmond and Hardaway played together in Golden State.)
“You have to wait your turn,” Hardaway said. “You’ve got to be optimistic [about being inducted eventually].”