Vandeweghe, 45, is in his fourth season as general manager of the Nuggets after being named to the post on Aug. 9, 2001. With Denver, he is involved in every facet of the team’s operation from making trades to working out players on the court. He has been innovative in his approach to the job, masterminding the team’s open tryouts, a Goodwill Tour of military bases in Europe in 2002 and the recent uniform and color update for the Nuggets in the summer of 2003.
In his three-plus years on the job in Denver, Vandeweghe has drastically reshaped the look and future of the Nuggets. He engineered numerous trades during that time, which have shifted the Nuggets from a struggling team with no salary cap flexibility, to a young, athletic squad, that is one of the up-and-coming teams in the NBA.
In the summer of 2003, Vandeweghe lured free agents Andre Miller, Jon Barry, Earl Boykins and Voshon Lenard to Denver and selected reigning Final Four MVP Carmelo Anthony with the third pick in the draft. Teamed with All-Rookie First Team forward Nenê and veteran Marcus Camby – both of whom Vandeweghe acquired in a draft-day deal from New York in 2002 - the Nuggets improved their win total by 26 games and reached the postseason for the first time since 1995. The 26-game improvement was the most ever by a team that won less than 20 games the year before. His club also became the first in the history of the NBA to go from less than 20 wins to the playoffs the next year (since going to an 82-game schedule in 1976).
This past summer, he was able to acquire All-Star forward Kenyon Martin from the New Jersey Nets without giving up a core player. He did so by taking advantage of a surplus of extra first round draft choices he had compiled through various trades over the years.
Not only has Vandeweghe changed the face of the roster, but he has done the same with the Nuggets facilities. Prior to the 2002-03 season, Vandeweghe spearheaded the renovation of the Nuggets locker room, relocated and expanded the weight room to include more state-of-the-art equipment, relocated and upgraded the spacious players’ lounge and installed a video coaching theater.
Prior to joining the Nuggets, Vandeweghe spent two seasons as an assistant coach and director of player development for the Dallas Mavericks. With the help of his tutelage, Dirk Nowitzki blossomed into a superstar and helped lead Dallas to its first playoff appearance in more than a decade.
No stranger to Nuggets fans, Vandeweghe began his 13-year NBA career with Denver in 1980. Originally selected with the 11th overall pick of the ’80 NBA Draft by Dallas, he was acquired on Dec. 3, 1980 and jumped quickly into the Nuggets record book as one of the team’s most prolific scorers.
In 293 career games with the Nuggets, Vandeweghe averaged 23.3 ppg while shooting .541 from the field and .857 from the free throw line. He was twice selected to the NBA All-Star team (’83 and ’84) and ranks prominently in several single-season and career categories.
Vandeweghe has built a reputation as one of the top instructors in basketball and has worked with countless NBA players developing their skills. He has been a featured speaker at Pete Newell’s Big Man camp every summer since its inception 26 years ago and has run his own skills camps since he retired from the NBA in ’93. In addition, he has worked with some of Europe’s brightest up-and-coming stars at the Reebok Euro Big Man Camp in Italy. His work with current NBA players such as Nowitzki, Martin and Austin Croshere has been well chronicled and his expertise in shooting is validated by his career .525 field goal percentage. He continues his hands-on instruction with Nuggets players every day. In addition, he, along with Athletic Trainer Jim Gillen and Assistant Coach/Strength & Conditioning Steve Hess, introduced the players to martial arts and yoga and makes this a part of their regiment.
His athletic prowess can be traced directly to his family genes – his father, Dr. Ernest Vandeweghe, played for the New York Knicks from ’49-56 after earning All-America honors at Colgate; his mother, Colleen, was a former Miss America and her brother, Melvin Hutchins, played from ’51-58 in the NBA and was a four-time All Star. His second cousin, Al, is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and earned a silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke at the ’36 Olympics.
Kiki’s siblings were also world-class athletes: one sister, Tauna, was a national backstroke champion and two-time Olympian; his brother, Bruk, earned a bronze medal in two-man beach volleyball at the ’94 Goodwill Games. His other sister, Heather, is a physician at UCLA.
Ernest Maurice Vandeweghe III was born Aug. 1, 1958, in Weisbaden, Germany, where his father was stationed as an Air Force physician. His nickname, Kiki, was given to him early in childhood and is German for curly headed.
Vandeweghe’s appreciation for the military is still evident today. In 2002, he spearheaded the Nuggets Goodwill Tour, which visited U.S. military stationed in Naples, Italy, Incirlik, Turkey and Sarajevo and Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina. He also continues to donate tickets to every home game to members of the Air Force in Colorado Springs. In recognition of his work in the international community, the University of Denver recently bestowed him with their 2004 International Bridge Builders Award.
A native of Los Angeles, Vandeweghe attended UCLA from ’76-80 and led the Bruins to the national title game his senior season under head coach Larry Brown. He received his degree in economics and was a Rhodes Scholar finalist.
Following retirement from the NBA, Vandeweghe formed a financial planning business and ran basketball clinics throughout the United States and Europe.
Vandeweghe and his wife Peggy, who earned an engineering degree from Louisiana State University, have one son, Ernest Maurice IV, born in 2002.