Walter Hardy coached boys basketball for 17 seasons at Paint Branch. (Courtesy photo/Paint Branch High School)

Walter Hardy, who had been a coach, teacher and athletic administrator for Montgomery County Public Schools for more than 25 years, died early Saturday. The cause of death was still unknown to friends and colleagues reached Sunday morning, but those close to him called it “tragic” and “out of nowhere.”

Hardy, who was 50 years old, is survived by his wife, Mary, and their children, Olivia and Chase. He was hired in May to be Sherwood’s athletic director and started in that role on July 1. Before taking the job at Sherwood, he was the athletic director at Kennedy for two years and, before that, Paint Branch’s head boys basketball coach for 17 seasons. He was named All-Met Coach of the Year in 2000 after leading Paint Branch to Maryland’s 3A state basketball title. 

Memorial arrangements for Hardy are still pending, Sherwood principal Bill Gregory said Sunday. Sherwood football coach Chris Grier said Sunday that “things are in the works” to honor Hardy in the near future. 

“He came in every single day in my office or out on the field, always happy, always joking around,” Grier said. “He was just a joy to be around, honestly, just a breath of fresh air. I’m going to miss him, we were really looking forward to a number of years with him. It’s a shame, and it hurts a lot.”

Grier said that Hardy was in the Sherwood football offices Saturday morning and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The coaches needled Hardy for wearing Damascus colors — the Warriors are playing Damascus this Friday — and Hardy joked that he dressed that way to get them fired up.

Sherwood beat Magruder at home this past Friday night, and Grier said Hardy was “totally in his element” running around the packed stadium making sure everything went smoothly. When the lights turned off at night’s end, Grier told Hardy that they got him his first football win as an athletic director and the coach remembers a big smile spreading across Hardy’s face. 

Gregory said that he got a call around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday saying that Hardy had died. 

“I don’t think a lot of us have even had a chance to process this,” said Paint Branch basketball coach Chris Bohlen, who took over for Hardy when he took the job at Kennedy. “A lot of us coaches were talking (Saturday), Walter was always running around, always going to a game. He was always full of energy and it wasn’t like he was battling health issues. It was just so sudden that I think that made it worse.”

“He was completely selfless and would do anything to help kids, whether it was student or player of his, or people out in the community,” Bohlen continued. “He was always helping, and in that fashion he was a real role model for all of us in Montgomery County. I don’t think I ever heard him say the word no. That’s the legacy he leaves behind.”

Said MCPS athletic director Jeff Sullivan, who also coached with Hardy at Paint Branch: “He just touched so many people, and [was] just one of the most likable people you’ll ever meet. And there’s no one that has a bigger heart than Walt Hardy.”

Staff writer Jacob Bogage contributed to this report.