Relationships are everything.
No, this isn’t your parent or high school guidance counselor instructing you on the importance of maintaining quality associations throughout your professional career.
But when it comes to working in sports, particularly in the competitive field that is basketball operations, who you know often plays a driving force in carving out a successful path.
For Calvin Booth and Tim Connelly, a bond established in the late 1990s continued to grow over the ensuing two decades, and the two now find themselves as the lead decision-makers in the Denver Nuggets’ front office.
The year was 1999.
Booth had just been drafted 35th overall by the Washington Wizards after a successful college career at Penn State, where he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Connelly was beginning his first season as an assistant video coordinator after spending the previous three seasons as an intern in the Wizards’ basketball operations department. Connelly initially secured that position after writing letters to several NBA teams, to which Chuck Douglas of Washington’s college scouting department responded.
“It goes back a long time, the relationship with Tim,” Booth told Nuggets.com. "We kind of sparked a friendship from that standpoint and it's definitely evolved from that standpoint.”
As Connelly became a full-time scout in 2000, Booth was nearing the end of his first run with the Wizards. The 6’11” big man would eventually be traded to the Dallas Mavericks during the 2000-01 season and would go on to play for five other teams over his 10-year playing career.
However, the two would maintain their relationship during this period. Connelly eventually left Washington’s front office in 2010 to become the Assistant General Manager for the New Orleans Pelicans (then known as the Hornets).
Two years later, Booth joined Connelly in the Pelicans’ front office for the 2012-12 season as a scout. It was a natural starting point for Booth, who knew that he wanted to work in basketball operations after his playing days in order to stay in and around the game he loves.
After a year in New Orleans, Booth joined the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office, eventually working his way up to Director of Player Personnel.
During this time, Connelly had been named as the Nuggets’ EVP of Basketball Operations. Just a few months after being promoted to President of Basketball Operations in June of 2017, Booth was brought into the front office to serve as the team’s Assistant General Manager.
Less than three years later, the two serve as the lead minds in Denver’s front office, as Booth was recently promoted to General Manager following Artūras Karnišovas' departure to lead the Chicago Bulls’ front office.
“Calvin is one of the brightest basketball minds in our league,” Connelly said in a press release about Booth’s promotion. “We are very fortunate to have him as part of our organization and are extremely excited for his new role.”
Booth also understands and appreciates Connelly’s approach to the job, specifically his focus on development.
When fans think about the development of a team, the first thought is about the progression of young players. While that has certainly been the case in Denver over Connelly’s tenure, the development of front office and coaching minds has also been at the forefront.
Therefore, it’s no surprise to hear the names of some of Denver’s lead assistant coaches or front office executives come up when other teams in the league have openings.
For Booth, this only further inspires him to sharpen his craft.
“As I continued to ascend up the ranks of the front office, it became how can I do my job the best?” Booth explained to Nuggets.com. “What facets go into that person, the candidate that gets potentially in the future a President's job and gets to run their own program.”
Given Connelly’s desire to develop on-and-off the court, Booth understands that a time may come for the two to part ways if an exciting opportunity arises for the 44-year-old former player.
“Obviously, I'm going to enjoy every moment and second that I get to be with the Nuggets and I hope I'm here for a really long time, but I think Tim is really into growth and development. He wants to prepare me for that moment if I ever have the opportunity to take on that position.”
For now, fans can rest assured that Denver’s front office continues to progress and develop at a similar rate to the players on the court.
While the development of Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokić and Denver’s other young players has caught the league’s attention, one can’t overlook the importance of development throughout the front office.