In only his fourth season, Head Coach TJ Hardeman took Azusa Pacific to the peak of the NAIA, winning the 2011 national championship after guiding the program to its first NAIA title-game appearance in 2010. Hardeman begins his seventh season at Azusa Pacific, his ninth in collegiate women's basketball, as the program's all-time win percentage leader with a 151-60 mark (.716) through his first six seasons at the program's helm.
Prior to his arrival, Azusa Pacific had won just three games in nine NAIA Tournament appearances, but, under Hardeman, the Cougars have posted 12 national-tournament victories including the run to the 2011 title. He extended Azusa Pacific's streak of NAIA Tournament appearances and consecutive 20-win seasons to nine straight years, and his 2011 squad claimed the program's sixth Golden State Athletic Conference championship - its second in a row.
In 2012-13 Hardeman put a young squad in position to win the Pacific West Conference title in the program's first season of PacWest play up until the final week of the regular season, which culminated with an upset of nationally ranked Grand Canyon to end the Antelopes' bid at the league championship. One season earlier Hardeman took his national championship team to the quarterfinals of the NAIA tournament, before Azusa Pacific fell to eventual champion Oklahoma City. The 2010-11 33-5 campaign produced the highest win total and winning percentage in program history. The Cougars posted five straight wins to clinch their title-game berth at the NAIA Tournament, where Azusa Pacific had never before won back-to-back games prior to 2010. In 2010 without any seniors, the Cougars fashioned an 18-2 GSAC record, winning 14 of the final 15 and winning all 10 conference home games to share the regular-season GSAC crown with Vanguard.
Hardeman's arrival to Azusa Pacific has led the program to an unprecedented level of success. In 2008, the Cougars matched their highest single-season win total (24) since 2002, steering Azusa Pacific to its highest national tournament seed (No. 3) since the NAIA began using the bracketed-quarters format in the women's national tournament. A year later, Hardeman became just the third coach in program history to lead Azusa Pacific to an NAIA Tournament victory when a Cougar squad with no seniors (and just 1 junior) posted a 65-55 first-round win over Southern Nazarene (Okla.).
Hardeman, the seventh coach in Azusa Pacific's 40-year history of women's basketball, took over the Cougar program after spending the previous three seasons as the women's head coach at Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) rival Hope International University in Fullerton, Calif., where he put together one of the most remarkable turnarounds in conference history.
Hardeman inherited a Hope International program that finished last in the GSAC 5 straight seasons and had won just five of 96 conference games from 1999 to 2004. However, he led the Royals out of the cellar, fashioning a 38-58 (.396) 3-year record. He guided the Royals to 16 GSAC victories the final two seasons, 10 more than the program had collected in its six previous seasons in the conference.
In 2006, he caught everyone's attention in the GSAC when Hope International posted its first-ever 20-win season and qualified for its first-ever NAIA postseason action. His Royals carved out a 20-14 overall record, which included a 10-10 slate in GSAC play and a sixth-place finish. For his effort, Hardeman was named the GSAC Coach of the Year, the first HIU coach ever to be so honored in any sport.
Prior to taking over the Hope International program, Hardeman spent 20 seasons as a boy's head coach on the high school level in Southern California, serving seven (1982-89) years at Paramount (Calif.) High before moving on to Troy High in Fullerton, Calif., where he coached for 13 (1990-2003) more campaigns. While at Troy, he led the Warriors to the CIF playoffs 11 times and was named the Freeway League Coach of the Year four times as well. Though now coaching at Azusa Pacific, Hardeman remains connected with Troy High, where he teaches psychology and sociology full-time.
Hardeman played his collegiate basketball at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., where as a 1975 freshman he played for his father, Tine Hardeman. T.J. then played the next 3 seasons for NAIA Hall of Famer Chet Kammerer. Along with his dad, who was a four-year letterman at Westmont in the mid-1950s, T.J.'s 3 younger siblings - Tom, Terri and Todd - also played basketball at Westmont.
Hardeman graduated from Westmont in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in physical education. He earned a master's in curriculum and instruction from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., in 1983.
T.J. and his wife, Cindy, live in Brea, Calif. They have four 4 adult children - Heidi, a former four-year basketball player at Biola; Katie, a former four-year hoopster at Westmont; and sons Travis and Trent, who both played on Hope International's men's basketball team and played for T.J. at Troy High.