The Denver Nuggets have settled on a general manager. Now, they can concentrate on finding a new coach.
The team announced Monday that Tim Connelly will take over for Masai Ujiri, who left to become general manager of the Toronto Raptors. Connelly’s official title with the team will be executive vice president of basketball operations.
Connelly is considered a rising front-office talent, much like Ujiri when he first joined the Nuggets. The 36-year-old Connelly has been serving as the assistant GM with the New Orleans Pelicans since 2010, with his responsibilities including draft preparation, trade negotiations and player contracts.
“We are extremely excited to have Tim join the Denver Nuggets organization,” team President Josh Kroenke said in a statement. “He comes from a great basketball background, possesses an incredibly strong work ethic and is a wonderful person. His passion and energy for the game of basketball are contagious, and I am confident that he will be a great fit with us in Denver.”
His first order of business with the Nuggets will be finding a replacement for George Karl after the longtime coach was fired nearly two weeks ago. Former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins is expected to interview for the Nuggets’ vacant job, and Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw remains a hot commodity, as well.
The coach that Denver ultimately lures to the bench may play a big role in bringing back Andre Iguodala, who’s expected to opt out of his $16 million contract for next season and test free agency this summer. The loss of Iguodala, the team’s top defender, could be a blow to a team that won a franchise-best 57 games during the regular season only to bow out in the first round yet again as the Nuggets lost to Golden State. The Nuggets already will be without Danilo Gallinari for the start of next season as the Italian forward recovers from an ACL injury.
“I am looking forward to building on the strong foundation that has already been established in Denver,” Connelly said.
Before joining the Pelicans, Connelly spent a decade with the Washington Wizards, where he was in charge of scouting, salary cap and player evaluations. He traveled all over the world looking for players and has worked with various international programs to help grow the game, including the NBA’s “Basketball Without Borders” program.
“Tim did a great job for us, and we wish him all the best in Denver,” Pelicans GM Dell Demps said.
Peter D’Alessandro was believed to be a candidate for the general manager position after working closely with Ujiri in Denver, but D’Alessandro left last week to become GM with the Sacramento Kings.
It’s been a tumultuous offseason for the Nuggets, who’ve had to replace the NBA’s top executive and coach. Karl had one year left on his contract and wanted an extension that Kroenke wasn’t prepared to give him.
Karl’s dismissal came less than a week after Ujiri left the Nuggets to take over in Toronto. Ujiri was responsible for orchestrating the Carmelo Anthony trade to New York and assembled a relatively starless roster that still managed to become a formidable challenger in the competitive Western Conference.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed.