Not long after they joined the Timberwolves ownership last summer, Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez made it their mission to find a top-tier executive with a proven track record of building a franchise to run the organization when they are set to become controlling owners in 2023.
With the help of current controlling owner Glen Taylor, the Wolves reeled in that high-profile target: Tim Connelly.
Connelly, who spent the past 10 seasons building Denver into a Western Conference contender, agreed Monday to become the new Wolves president of basketball operations, NBA sources confirmed.
Connelly met with a contingent from the Wolves on Saturday at Taylor’s home in Mankato, and spent some time mulling over his decision since then. He finally agreed to a deal after having an extended courtship in recent weeks with Lore and Rodriguez.
The contract is for five years and $40 million, with Connelly getting an equity stake in the team that will raise the value of the package.
Lore and Rodriguez purchased the team for $1.5 billion in a deal that was finalized 2021. Taylor will be the controlling owner until 2023.
Connelly’s hiring represents the end of a long process for the new owners to find a top-tier executive with a proven track record to run the basketball side of the franchise for years going forward and come eight months after the team fired President Gersson Rosas in September.
Connelly helped build a perennial contender in Denver around two-time MVP Nikola Jokic since joining the Nuggets as general manager in 2013. He was later promoted to president.
The Nuggets reached the Western Conference finals in 2020 as Jokic blossomed in the years after Connelly drafted him 41st overall in 2014. In 2016, Connelly drafted Jamal Murray, the burgeoning guard who spearheaded that 2020 run alongside Jokic. Murray has been out since April 2021 after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Denver hasn’t advanced past the second round in the two playoffs since.
Connelly oversaw the drafting of Michael Porter Jr., who was out most of this season because of a back injury, and promising rookie Bones Hyland, who simply tweeted “Damn …” shortly after the news broke Monday.
Connelly also drafted two significant contributors on the current Wolves roster — guard Malik Beasley and forward Jarred Vanderbilt. Rosas traded for the pair before the deadline in February 2020.
Connelly is a native of Baltimore who also worked for the Wizards and Hornets. He inherits a Wolves roster that made its second playoff appearance since 2004. Monday’s news ends a high-wire act of negotiations while the team still allowed Executive Vice President Sachin Gupta to run the team on a day-to-day basis following Rosas’ firing in September, days before the start of training camp.
Gupta oversaw the roster and made moves this season such as extending Patrick Beverley to a one-year contract and signing coach Chris Finch to a four-year deal as Gupta spent the past eight months auditioning for the role that ultimately went to Connelly.
Gupta has also been making changes to the front office, most recently hiring Steve Senior as an assistant general manager from Memphis. Connelly’s hiring leads to a number of questions pertaining to the Wolves’ organizational structure.
It’s unclear if Gupta will remain with the organization moving forward, but even as the Wolves engaged in the outside hiring process, they wanted Gupta to remain with the team moving forward.
Finch and Gupta have a good relationship and spoke highly of working with each other throughout the season. Finch also made a pitch to ownership to keep Gupta.
“I’m a huge fan, and I’ve advocated for him to have his opportunity to be the guy to run this team,” Finch said after the season. “Nothing would make me happier than that. No better time, after this season, to be able to continue to build.”
But Connelly and Finch appear to have a good relationship extending from when they worked together in Denver, sources said. Finch was an assistant with the Nuggets in the 2016-17 season.
In terms of the roster, the Wolves might potentially be in a position to offer a supermax extension to center Karl-Anthony Towns should Towns, who has two years left on his deal, make an All-NBA team. Guard D’Angelo Russell is entering the final year of his contract and will be looking for an extension while the Wolves will be trying to upgrade their frontcourt.
Connelly will also handle the Wolves’ upcoming draft in June, when they have four picks, including No. 19 overall.
But he will also oversee multiple drafts and free-agency periods beyond that. His arrival settles one of the biggest questions regarding the future of the Wolves.
Lore, Rodriguez and Taylor got their guy and are investing a lot of years and money in him.
So begins a new chapter in the organization’s history.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism