Philly hoops guru John Hardnett dies

Posted: May 19, 2010

The Philadelphia basketball community has lost one of its titans.

John Hardnett, a longtime coach/administrator in the Sonny Hill Program and, more importantly, a shining light to numerous players from not-always-pleasant backgrounds, died yesterday.

"He taught the kids the right way to do things, and I don't mean just basketball," said Littel Vaughn, the founder/publisher of "Checkball Magazine," which celebrates Philly hoops. "John was more than a coach. Mentor, father figure, big brother. You look at John's guys. They're disciplined players and they lead good lives, too."

Reached last night, Vaughn said he had spoken a short time earlier, by telephone, with Strawberry Mansion star Devonté "DJ" Newbill, who is bound for Marquette.

"He kept saying, 'Don't tell me John has passed,' " Vaughn said. "I could tell he was in tears."

Since about the mid-1990s, at sites that changed through the years, from spring through early fall, Hardnett supervised workout sessions involving players all the way from high school to college to overseas pros to even NBA stalwarts. Out-of-town agents would even send clients to Hardnett's sessions.

There'd be drills, then pickup games of 3-on-3, then 5-on-5, and Hardnett would supervise with his ever-present tough-love, yet nurturing, approach.

Curt Hall, who helped Hardnett with the sessions, said this year's batch was to have started yesterday. He said numerous friends tried unsuccessfully to contact Hardnett, and his body was ultimately discovered at his home. Hall said Hardnett had suffered health problems stemming from diabetes.

"John had that passion," Vaughn said. "He loved to make the guys improve. And he did just that. A lot of guys were average when they started with John. And they got better and better. Mardy Collins, Dionte Christmas, Aaron McKie . . .

"So many guys wound up with pretty nice lives, thanks to John. This is hitting a lot of people hard. Very hard."

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

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