Tim Connelly, Denver’s president of basketball operations since 2013, is leaving to take the same position in Minnesota, a source told The Denver Post.
Financial compensation, including equity in the Timberwolves, was a significant factor, the source said.
Connelly and his wife, Negah, met with Timberwolves ownership over the weekend in Minnesota and then took two days to mull the decision before Monday’s announcement.
In between, there was hope within Denver’s organization that the Kroenkes might counter and find a way to keep Connelly.
The decision was particularly difficult for Connelly considering how close the Nuggets are to title contention and the deep relationships he’s established inside the organization with players and coach Michael Malone. Under Connelly’s watch, the Nuggets have reached the second round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, which had only been done once since 1994. Connelly, according to multiple sources, wasn’t eager to leave Denver and wasn’t searching for a new organization to help develop.
It’s a devastating loss for the Nuggets’ organization, which had established league-wide respect over the last few seasons under Connelly’s watch. That Connelly’s leaving for a rival Western Conference, let alone a team in the same division, made it even more jarring.
If the decision to counter Minnesota’s offer was made solely by team governor Josh Kroenke, given their close friendship, it’s likely Connelly wouldn’t be going anywhere, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. But short of that, it’s fair to wonder how much Stan Kroenke valued the job Connelly did during his tenure. That his predecessor, Masai Ujiri, also left Denver for a more lucrative offer from the Toronto Raptors is an indication of ownership is unwilling to make the financial commitment necessary to hold on to top executives.
Aside from establishing one of the most functional organizations in the NBA, with continuity on the roster and stability on the coaching staff, Connelly oversaw the 2014 draft that yielded franchise centerpiece Nikola Jokic. Connelly, 46, took the back-to-back MVP at No. 41, making him perhaps the most valuable draft pick in NBA history.
After selecting Jokic, Connelly drafted Jamal Murray in 2016 and then pounced when Michael Porter Jr.’s medical history caused him to drop to No. 14 in the 2018 draft. When healthy, Porter’s looked like a steal, but Connelly and the Nuggets took a significant gamble when they agreed to an early max extension with him last summer. He lost the majority of this past season following back surgery, and his max contract begins next season.
Behind the scenes, Connelly worked hard to establish a positive culture, routinely empowering coaches and staff. When it came to Malone, one of his closest friends, Connelly hated to meddle in coaching decisions and would often say the job was hard enough as it is. For lower staff members, he fought hard to get them adequately compensated.
It’s why so many people within the Nuggets’ organization vouched for Connelly’s leadership. They know how instrumental he’s been to the fabric of the franchise.
Nuggets GM Calvin Booth, who’s worked alongside Connelly for several seasons, is a primary candidate to replace him.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism