Boron nitride (BN) coatings are deposited by the reactive sputtering of fully dense, boron (B) targets utilizing an argon-nitrogen (Ar-N2) reactive gas mixture. Near-edge x-ray absorption fine structure analysis reveals features of chemical bonding in the B ls photoabsorption spectrum. Hardness is measured at the film surface using nanoindentation. The BN coatings prepared at low, sputter gas pressure with substrate heating are found to have bonding characteristic of a defected hexagonal phase. The coatings are subjected to post-deposition nitrogen (N+ and N2
+) implantation at different energies and current densities. The changes in film hardness attributed to the implantation can be correlated to changes observed in the B ls NEXAFS spectra.