How 'The Brady Bunch' led to Inkster native Barry Hardy's career with the Harlem Globetrotters

Nov 2, 2021 at 2:02 pm
click to enlarge Barry Hardy. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Barry Hardy.

In 1972, The Brady Bunch visited Honolulu, over a three-episode story arch, featuring a surfing contest, Hula lessons, and Vincent Price as a maniacal architect.

Some years later, in syndication, those episodes found a young Barry Hardy, in his Inkster childhood home.

“Watching that television show, I fell in love with Hawaii,” Hardy, a 1993, graduate of Brigham Young University-Hawaii, says. I said to myself ‘one day I am going to go to Hawaii. One day I am going to go to college in Hawaii.’”

Hardy, who played four years of BYU-Hawaii basketball and stayed an additional year with the program as a graduate assistant, and who has spent the bulk of his adult life working for the Harlem Globetrotters, in one capacity or another, likened his journey to BYU-Hawaii, to almost divine intervention.

“I went to Florida International for a visit, but it was too late (to enroll),” Hardy says. “The day I was there, the phone rang and it was a coach from Hawaii. When (the coach) got off the phone, he said to me ‘how would you like to go to school in Hawaii? Their coach is looking for some players.’”

For Hardy, who describes his upbringing in Inkster as “tough” and who would go on to become the first in his family to earn a college degree, basketball was a doorway to a better life.

But the game didn’t come naturally to him.

“I had no formal training,” Hardy says. “I never went to camps; I got cut in the ninth grade; in middle school, I was one of the last names called; I remember the girls made the team before me.

“It was just something I did for fun, Hardy continues. “I had big dreams of doing something, but I never knew what.”

As he got older, and physically matured, Hardy began doing something better than everyone else in his high school: jump.

“Unofficially, I think (my vertical leap) reached 52 inches,” Hardy says. “I always wondered, why everyone can’t do this? At the time it seemed simple.”

Hardy arrived on campus in Laie with an official vertical leap of 48 inches. He was a player with big upside, but he was unpolished.

“I was one of those guys that could touch the ceiling, but I couldn’t shoot the ball,” remembers Hardy. “(BYU-Hawaii coach) Chic Hess called himself the shot doctor. He developed my jump shot and I worked on it every single day.”

At BYU-Hawaii, Hardy was a four-time letterman, and led the team all the way to an NAIA Final Four.

After making a name for himself in various dunk contests throughout college, the famed Globetrotters — an exhibition basketball team that combines, comedy, theatrics, and basketball — took notice of Hardy.

“I got invited to training camp,” Hardy says. “The first day, I did a windmill dunk and got my arm inside the rim. The place went nuts. The owner came in and made me an offer that evening.”

From 1993 through 1999, Hardy performed for the team under the obvious moniker of “High Rise.”

As a Trotter, Hardy played about 100 games a year, coupled with daily practices, spread out across countless countries.

For Hardy, the most memorable moment came in South Africa.

“We played in front of Nelson Mandela,” Hardy says. “He said my name, ‘It is a pleasure to meet you, Barry.’ I thought that was the coolest thing. It made me feel special.”

In August of 1999, Hardy took advantage of his business management and marketing degree, and transitioned into a marketing director role. In 2009 he became the Globetrotters head coach.

“Phil Jackson couldn’t do what I do,” Hardy says with a laugh. “We are playing basketball, but it’s such a mix of basketball and show; it’s hard to tell when one is occurring and one is not. As coach, you have to spend a lot of time with the entertainment part, because our players come from straight basketball backgrounds.”

“He stressed ball handling with all of his players,” Globetrotter’s legend “Sweet” Lou Dunbar said. “Barry is creative; we do a lot of things through trial and error. You can tell he loves the game and he loves being around the Globetrotters.”

This past January, Hardy took a promotion with the organization, to move on from his coaching role to Vice President of Player Personnel and Tour Development.

“This was a great opportunity,” Hardy says. “I always wanted to be in business. I am living beyond my dreams right now.”

“Barry took a different route,” Dunbar says. “He fits in wherever; Once a Trotter, always a Trotter.”

Brand building is chief among Hardy’s new responsibilities within the organization.

“When I first came along, we were in bankruptcy,” Hardy remembers. “During the rebuilding process, we lost two generations of fans. Different owners have different visions. The last owner was a hedge fund company, it was all about finances for them; it wasn’t about the growth of the brand.”

In Hardy’s mind, putting the history of the team front and center is key to the brand.

“This thing has been around for 95 years,” Hardy says. “We are the originals. We brought what people see in the NBA overseas before the league did. A lot of credit goes to the ‘Dream Team’ but they don’t realize the power the Globetrotters had. We average about three-million fans a year; I think we’d double that if people really knew the history.”

As has been the case everywhere, the Globetrotters haven’t been immune to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It hit us so hard, we were off 16 months,” Hardy says. “We took it very seriously from the beginning; we have people to protect. Not just our players but our fans. It hit us hard on the business side, but it gave us a chance to rethink everything. We want to be in stores, on TV, on social media; so that gave us time to relaunch things.”

Life as a Globetrotter hasn’t always been easy, but for Hardy, it’s the life he always wanted.

“It’s so rewarding because I know where I started and where I come from,” Hardy says. “I look back and I am so thankful. Everything I went through built me up for where I am today and where I am going.”

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