Justin Zanik
Otto Kitsinger/NBAE via Getty Images

New Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik discusses his role and the changes in the team’s front office

by Aaron Falk

After 15 years as an agent, Justin Zanik came to the NBA as a strong negotiator with an enviable network of contacts and relationships that almost instantly made him one of the league’s most promising young executives.

“The learning curve,” he said, “was about how to operate in a group for something that’s bigger than yourself.”

That’s exactly what Zanik’s promotion is about. The Utah Jazz this week announced the promotions of Dennis Lindsey to executive vice president of basketball operations and Zanik to general manager—moves that will help solidify one of the league’s most stable front offices.

“It’s not about me,” Zanik said. “This is about the organization and the group. We have a very collaborative process here that involves all aspects of the organization when we have decisions that come up. Every offseason requires reflection on the previous season, where we stand within the landscape of the NBA and what are the avenues we can take.

“We have a great young foundation. All of those critical decisions that will be coming up, we’ll do that as a group. We want to compete. We want to be the last team standing at the end of the day. It takes a lot of people to do that.”

Zanik was hired by the Jazz in 2013 as an assistant general manager under Lindsey.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business,” Zanik said.

The young executive’s arrival came just as Lindsey and Kevin O’Connor, now the team’s senior vice president of basketball operations, had started a rebuild of the roster. Over the next six years, Zanik would assist in the search and hire of head coach Quin Snyder and help the Jazz reestablish themselves as postseason regulars.

The promotions will “further enable Dennis to provide executive leadership and overall strategic vision for Jazz basketball operations and give Justin the opportunity for greater impact on our organization,” Jazz president Steve Starks said.

“The change is more of a continuation of the evolution of an NBA organization,” Zanik said. “The league has become a huge property worldwide. The duties and responsibilities of running billion-dollar-plus valuation organizations have become more varied and extensive.”

Zanik credits his relationships with Lindsey, O’Connor, Snyder, Jazz president Steve Starks, assistant general manager David Morway, and the Miller family for helping prepare him to become the franchise’s general manager.

“They’ve helped me immensely to continue to take on more and more things and to keep pushing this organization forward as a group,” he said.

And Zanik said the title changes won’t impact the front office’s collaborative approach.

“All of our responsibilities have evolved in the time that I’ve been here,” he said. “Growing in analytics, growing in relationship, all of the wonderful things on the business side that the Millers and Steve Starks have led, with engagement in the community and the state. From specifics—we do everything together. I’m not sure how much will change on a daily basis that is going to be point specific. Just continue to grow in the role and do what I can to help. ...

“We have a very experienced front office. We know what we need to do. However we get that done, we’re going to do it together. And we’re going to continue to keep pushing forward with the Jazz to keep us on this championship competitive path.”

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