Tim Connelly eager to get started in his role with the Nuggets

New executive vice president of basketball operations brings youth, experience to Denver
by Aaron Lopez
Nuggets.com

He was turnover-prone with an inconsistent jump shot.

Tim Connelly the NBA executive admittedly wouldn’t have spent much time scouting Tim Connelly the basketball player.

“I played hard,” he said. “I know where to be, but my body won’t let me get there.”

Unable to play the game beyond the high school level, Connelly didn’t give up on his hoops dream, breaking into the NBA as an intern with the Washington Wizards front office in 1996.

After working his way up through the ranks with the Wizards and the New Orleans Pelicans, Connelly reached new heights Monday when he was named executive vice president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets.

“I’m young, but I’ve been in the NBA since ‘96,” the 36-year-old Baltimore native said. “I’m an old, young vet. Certainly (Nuggets president) Josh (Kroenke) and the Kroenke family took a chance on me. I’m hopeful collectively as a staff we can keep this progressing to where we all want to be.”

Connelly, who spent the past three years as New Orleans assistant general manager, replaces Masai Ujiri, who left Denver to take a job with the Toronto Raptors earlier this month.

Like Ujiri, Connelly brings a strong international scouting background and a passion for finding talent in all corners of the globe. He also has worked with well-respected executives such as New Orleans general manager Dell Demps and Washington Wizards vice president of basketball administration Tommy Sheppard.

“We are very happy for Tim and (his fiancée) Negah,” Demps said. “They are good people that will both be missed by the entire Pelicans organization. Tim did a great job for us and we wish him all the best in Denver.”

Connelly will hit the ground running in his new role with the Nuggets. Denver has the 27th pick in the NBA Draft on June 27 and is in the midst of a coaching search. Retaining free-agent-to-be Andre Iguodala also will be on the priority list.

“We have a lot to do,” Connelly said. “The draft’s quickly approach, then we’ll hit free agency.”
Connelly’s hiring is reminiscent of 2010 when Kroenke brought in Ujiri to take over the Denver front office. In three seasons, the Nuggets turned over nearly the entire roster, building around youth and athleticism while staying among the Western Conference elite.

Denver won a team-record 57 games last season and finished third in the West despite having the NBA’s third-youngest roster at the start of 2012-13.

“Big shoes to fill,” Connelly said. “Masai and Pete (D’Alessandro) rightfully have been recognized for the great things they’ve done in Denver. There are great guys still on staff that I can’t wait to work with. It’s humbling to follow in (Ujiri’s) footsteps. He left the house in good order.”

D’Alessandro was named general manager of the Sacramento Kings on Monday after three seasons with the Nuggets, most recently as vice president of basketball operations. Kroenke wasted little time in bringing Connelly into the fold.

“He comes from a great basketball background, possesses an incredibly strong work ethic and is a wonderful person,” Kroenke said. “His passion and energy for the game of basketball are contagious and I am confident that he will be a great fit with us in Denver.”

Connelly is equally enthusiastic as he joins a team that has advanced to the playoffs in each of the past 10 seasons. Only the San Antonio Spurs have a longer active streak.

“They’ve got such a fantastic foundation in Denver,” Connelly said. “The guys who did this job before me did such a great job. I just want to get on the ground, learn and then hopefully build off the foundation. It’s a fun team to watch with great fans. I’m looking forward to getting started.”