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Getting to know Denver Nuggets executive Tim Connelly

General manager/executive VP of basketball operations not a one-dimensional hoops guy

Nuggets general manager/executive vice president of basketball operations Tim Connelly is a Baltimore native who enjoys old-school hip-hop.
John Leyba/Denver Post

Identifying basketball talent has been the focal point of Tim Connelly’s career for the better part of 17 years, but his passion for hoops doesn’t define him as a person.

The Baltimore native enjoys watching movies, listening to old-school hip-hop, jogging and exploring historic landmarks in international cities such as Barcelona and St. Petersburg.

“I’m a huge believer in balance,” he said. “While I love basketball, I love travel, art, movies. I like to run and ride bikes. Balance is key. I’m not a one-dimensional basketball guy by any means.”

Connelly, 36, was named general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets this week. After his introductory press conference, he took some time to answer a few questions from Nuggets.com.

Being from Baltimore, I’m guessing you're a Ravens fan, which might not go over so well here in Denver.

“I can’t even lie. I can’t start with a lie. I’m a Ravens fan. I actually grew up liking the Broncos as well – the Broncos, Eagles and Ravens. But I am a Ravens fan, and I like the Orioles. Baltimore’s a civic-minded town, so I like everything Baltimore – but I could be a convert.”

Where were you when the Ravens scored the improbable game-tying touchdown against the Broncos in the AFC playoffs?

“I was in New York. We went to a Ravens bar on 3rd and 29th that looked like you were in West Baltimore, but it was too crowded. My fiancée and a couple buddies met me there and we went next door. When the touchdown throw went up – I’m not an overly excited guy about sports – I got so excited, I slammed my hand down and my watch went flying right into the back of the bar and almost took the bartender’s head off. It was a pretty neat moment for a Baltimore guy.”

Being a Ravens fans who worked in New Orleans, did you attend the Super Bowl at the Superdome?

“I had pre-purchased some tickets. The Super Bowl was about seven blocks from my house, so I went with my father, two sisters and two brothers and a bunch of players from (the New Orleans Pelicans) and their families. It was one of those pinch-yourself moments. It was awesome.”

You work in a sports industry that involves a lot of people with tattoos. Do you have any yourself?

“I do, on my ankle. Young and dumb. I think I was 18 years old. It was a Gaelic symbol that meant something after my grandmother passed away. I don’t want to say I regret it because it makes you think of a great time with my grandmother, but it’s not going to be a great look in the pool as you get older.”

What’s your favorite movie?

“My favorite comedy is probably Dumb and Dumber, and I’m kind of partial to Old School. Favorite movie (overall) is probably The Usual Suspects.”

How about your favorite basketball movie?

“For whatever reason, I don’t love reading basketball books or watching basketball movies. But the best basketball movie has to be Hoosiers.”

Have you ever been starstruck?

“Yes. I was starstruck when Michael Jordan took over (as owner of the Washington Wizards). It was kind of that ‘wow’ moment when he came in and said, ‘I’m Michael Jordan.’

“My two other favorite athletes growing up were Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray (of the Baltimore Orioles). I used to work at concession stands at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. I also was a bus boy at the ESPN Zone. I got to see Cal a ton, but I don’t remember being starstruck by Cal. Then I met Eddie Murray at the Final Four last year. He’s a big basketball guy. I went up to him and talked hoops for a long time. He was great. He was awesome. They’re the two guys – Eddie Murray and Michael Jordan.”

What’s your favorite international city?

“I almost don’t want to give it away because it’s my hidden gem. I like the Adriatic coast of Croatia quite a bit. I love Barcelona. I was just in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was a really neat city. I really enjoy history. When I go somewhere, it’s not just for the game. I have to see the must-see tourist traps. You have to maximize your trips.”

How about music? What do you like past and present?

“I have pretty eclectic music tastes. I grew up around music. I can’t play a thing. I can’t sing a lick, but I enjoy the arts. I enjoy any talent that people have. I’m a big old-school hip-hop guy. Give me Illmatic, Nas’ first album and I can run to that for an hour. I also like a lot of the 80smusic like The Cure. But mostly I’m an old-school hip hop guy. Seventy percent of the music is pre-2004. Currently, I like a lot of groups. I like reggae. I don’t think I’m too one-dimensional.”

Being the third-oldest of seven siblings (five boys, two girls), what was the best thing about growing up in a big family?

“It forces you to appreciate things. That’s kind of the serious answer. You’ve got to have a sense of humor. You can’t take things too seriously. My parents gave us a lot of responsibility raising the younger kids. You grow up around two great parents, you realize you can control what you can control and do your best. It gives me a healthy sense of what’s important.”

What was the worst part about growing up in a big family?

“Hand-me-down clothes are not great, especially when they’re multi-generational. You go to the fast-food place and you get the one big soda and everyone shares little cups. You get four fries apiece. That’s not the best.

“My parents did an unbelievable job. I don’t know how they did it. My older brother has three kids. He and my sister-in-law are fantastic parents. We’ll take the kids for a day – and I love kids – and I think, ‘How did my mom and dad do this?’ And they did it without the benefit of any technology – no iPads, no cell phones. If your mom said she’s going to meet you at 5 o’clock, you better be there at 5 o’clock. There was way more good than bad. But there were a lot of fights, a lot of back and forth.”

Were there any family pets?

“My family grew up in a row home until I was 11. There was no room for pets. There was barely room for kids. When we moved, we got a dog, a black lab. My fiancée (Negah) really wants an English bulldog. We’ll see.

How did you and Negah meet?

“We were at a fundraiser in D.C. just just before summer league (in 2009) and we exchanged information. The next day, I went to Vegas. I don’t have much rap, so text is probably better. After that, I went to Croatia for a scouting trip. While I was there, I got the offer to join Dell Demps (as the assistant general manager) in New Orleans.

“I’m still texting (Negah), trying to be cute. ‘I have this opportunity to go to New Orleans. What do you think?’ Post-Katrina, she spent some time helping rebuild the city down there. She spent a couple nights in the Superdome. She loved New Orleans. I took the job and flew back (home). We had our first official date and then another date. Before you know it, we were seeing each other every day. It sounds corny, but it was pretty much love at first date – but don’t let her hear that.

“After I moved down to New Orleans, she helped me find a place and some furniture so it didn’t look like a complete frat house. We got engaged last April and we’re getting married in August in D.C. She’s a D.C. girl. She was actually born in Ty Lawson’s hometown – Clinton, Md. Ty got a kick out of that. I’m a Baltimore guy. I pushed (for the wedding to be in) Baltimore, but I didn’t get very far.”