Josh Kroenke provides a view from the president's office
Josh Kroenke’s first dog was a black Lab named Morry.
Like most third-graders making their sales pitch for a pet, Josh promised his parents that he would handle all the responsibilities associated with taking care of the dog.
“I’m sure my mom will tell you that within three months, she was the one feeding it and all that other stuff,” Kroenke said with a laugh. “But I was the one playing with him and taking him for long walks.”
Two decades later, Kroenke rarely patrols Pepsi Center without his two English bulldogs, Fletch and Arnie in tow, and he is proving to be an excellent caretaker with the Denver Nuggets.
After working in the front office during the most successful three-year stretch in franchise history, Kroenke took over as team president before the 2010-11 season. He has since worked closely with executive vice president Masai Ujiri to reshape Denver’s roster through trades and the draft, while retaining key players such as Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari and Nene.
With the Nuggets entering the final seven weeks of the season, Kroenke sat down at a recent shootaround to provide a view from the president’s box, so to speak.
Q: What was your assessment of the first half of the season?
A: We got off to a hot start and people were even asking me then, ‘Have you been surprised by this group of guys?’ Not necessarily have they surprised me; they were just kind of ahead of the curve.
Eventually we came back down to earth, as any NBA team does over the course of a season. We battled through some injuries. We’re getting guys back healthy and we needed some rest. I think more than anything, that’s what the All-Star break gave us.
Q: A lot of people probably ask you about Wilson Chandler. Is there any update on his status?
A: He was here (in Denver) and it was great to see him. I think he had a very good experience in China. It wasn’t the NBA, but I think he has a greater appreciation now of what our league is.
We’re still in active talks. I don’t know what’s going to wind up happening. We definitely want Wilson on our team. It’s tough because it’s such a unique situation trying to add a young veteran player to a new contract in the middle of a season. There are so many factors that go into a decision like that. We’re working hard on trying to add him.
Q: You and Masai have faced some tough challenges in your 18 months together. Has this season been refreshing in the sense that you have been able to focus on shaping the team in your image?
A: The last year and a half has been such a whirlwind because I went from being promoted to where I am now to hiring Masai to the Melo stuff to having a couple months to take a breath last spring after the trade deadline. Then we went immediately back into the draft and then the lockout, which was an education in itself. It’s been a wild year, but it’s been great to see our guys come together and it’s been refreshing to see some stuff that you hope to be right about in your mind. It’s great to see it come to fruition.
Q: This franchise has never been shy about making a move to improve the team. With the March 15 trade deadline approaching, what’s your philosophy this season?
A: Our ears are always open. We’re in a position this year where we don’t have to do anything, which is where you want to be in pro sports. Where you get in trouble in trades and deals and contracts is when people know you have to act. That’s when you end up overpaying somebody or making a lopsided trade that’s not in your favor.
I think we’re in a position this year where we don’t have to do anything. I’m sure Masai will be working the phones and I’ll be talking to people here and there. We have ideas on what we’d like to do and where we could possibly improve, but we don’t need to do anything. We’re pretty pleased with where we are in the season, but if something comes up, you’ve always got to be ready.
Q: Commissioner David Stern attended a game at Pepsi Center this week. How was the visit?
A: It’s always good to have a chance to spend time with the Commissioner. He has a soft spot for Denver. He enjoys the state of Colorado. I think he likes the way our team is built right now. He was very complimentary and I think he’s excited about our future.
Q: What advice has your father Stan Kroenke given you as you go through your first two years dealing with the ups-and-downs of the season and the other challenges inherent to running an NBA team?
A: There are too many games to think about one win or one loss too much. You always have to be looking forward and moving forward.
When it comes to some of the business stuff, he’s taught me extremely well. I’ve been groomed for this position for quite some time. While I understand a lot about the way the business works, I also know there’s a lot that I don’t understand yet. That’s where (Kroenke Sports & Entertainment executives) Jim Martin, Bruce Glazer, Mark Waggoner, Kurt Schwartzkopf, Stephen Stieneker, and all of the rest of our executive level guys come in. They do an unbelievable job of helping me out. For a young executive like me, they make things a lot easier and help me learn when I have questions … of which I have a lot!
Q: What have you thought about the first few episodes of The Association: Denver Nuggets on NBA TV?
A: I like it. They’ve done a really good job. I was nervous at first. As anyone who tries to run a company like ours, you’re letting them in to certain privileged conversations. Sometimes you have to have frank conversations about our players and everyone. But they’ve done a really good job. It reflects really well on our team and our players and I know our players are really happy with it. It’s for them more than anything.
Q: When you’re at Pepsi Center and talking to people around the city, do you get the sense that Nuggets fans are excited about the direction this team is heading?
A: I think they understand that we’ve got a roster full of great guys, guys who love to play together. We’re going to play hard every night. There are going to be some ups and downs, but we’re a young team that knows how to bounce back. I get a real sense that our fans appreciate that.