Losing part of the family

Northwestern's associate coach was a crucial bridge from Carmody to Collins. More importantly, he provided the sense of family Wildcat basketball craved.

Hearing that Fred Hill wouldn't return to the Cats was easy to stomach. Learning that Jaren Sina opted for Seton Hall was a bit tougher.

This one, however, could hurt for a while.

Tavaras Hardy won't be back with Northwestern this fall, taking the sidelines without donning purple for the first time in eight years. As the anticipated connection from the Carmody to Collins eras, Hardy's departure to Georgetown comes as a shock amid a month of decisive progress for the Wildcats.

Recruited from Joliet, Ill., Hardy first touched down in Evanston in 1998 and joined the program as All-Big Ten center Evan Eschmeyer entered his senior season. As a freshman, Hardy made an immediate impact, averaging nearly seven points a night playing in all 29 games. He continued to take strides his sophomore year, starting at the four spot while upping his rebound totals considerably before emerging as the team's top scoring option as a junior and senior.

Finishing with three team MVPs and notching a top-20 mark in seven career statistical categories for Northwestern, Hardy was part of a circuitous program that fluctuated from an 0-16 Big Ten record his sophomore season to a 16-13 overall mark two years later. After a brief stint coaching the Illinois Defenders, a high school women's basketball team, Hardy returned to the NU sidelines.

Among Hardy's many distinguishable traits -- his energy and personality, his rapport with players -- his recruiting prowess stands out. Hardy was instrumental in bringing John Shurna, Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb to Northwestern, and had developed extensive contact with 2014 and 2015 recruits alike. A young, charismatic coach with Chicago ties, Hardy was the go-to recruiter under Carmody and looked to continue momentum under Collins.

But what matters most in the Tavaras Hardy story is his dedication to the Wildcats. Chris Collins has the fervor and local connection that's ideal for a head coach, while Brian James and Pat Baldwin both boast impressive resumes and seem to be great fits for Northwestern. Yet Hardy was the member of the coaching staff that really knew what the school was about; his four years as a player and eight years as a coach outweigh the Northwestern experience of just about everyone else in the program.

Collins continues to preach the need for a sense of family at NU. It was a central focus of his introductory press conference at Welsh-Ryan Arena, and it was an integral part of his success at Duke. Hardy exemplified that sense of family more than anyone else, moving through the program's ranks and showcasing the salience of loyalty to and passion for Northwestern.

It's not a death sentence by any means. Collins' start to the recruiting campaign has been extremely impressive, and like the other vacancies he faced, the new head coach will likely have no trouble finding a viable candidate to complete his staff.

Hardy will continue to embody that Northwestern family, only now on a bigger stage competing for national championships. But losing a part of that family, no matter the circumstance, is far from easy.

Purple Wildcats Top Stories