New Nuggets GM Tim Connelly says of team talent, 'I'm the luckiest guy in the world'

DENVER - The Denver Nuggets introduced Tim Connelly as their new general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations at a Thursday morning news conference.

Connelly, 36, formerly the New Orleans Pelicans assistant general manager, takes over for Masai Ujiri, who left to take over as general manager in Toronto.

Interestingly, Nuggets President Josh Kroenke said he was introduced to Connelly a couple years ago by Ujiri and had kept in touch with Connelly.

Connelly, like Ujiri, is known for his skill at identifying and recruiting talented players overseas. Ujiri received the honor of being named the 2012-2013 NBA Executive of the Year in May.

Kroenke said he'd long had Connelly as the top of his list of bright basketball minds in the league and swiftly moved to hire him.

 "After a couple really pointed questions over dinner Saturday night, I offered Tim the job," Kroenke said. "I'm really excited to have Tim here. It will be a lot of fun moving forward and I hope nuggets fans are as excited as I am." 

Connelly drew laughter by quipping, "He had me at hello."

Connelly spoke of his strong ties with Ujiri.

"I want to thank Josh and the entire Kroenke family for this opportunity. I want to thank my dear friend Masai Ujiri who left the house in such good order. It's big shoes to fill."

Connelly said he's eager to build on the team's solid foundation.

"Today, I want to talk about growth. There's a culture that's already ingrained here -- a winning culture. It's a heck of a team that I'm inheriting. Fifty-seven wins (this season). It's chock-full of talent. It's a very supportive ownership and it’s a great city."

The new GM knows he has to hit the ground running.

After Ujiri left, the Nuggets fired Coach George Karl last month, shortly after he was named NBA Coach of the Year.

So, now Kroenke and Connelly will choose a new coach. The Nuggets interviewed Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw and former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins for the coaching job this week.

"We've had the good fortune of interviewing a couple of great candidates in the last couple of days," Connelly said, adding that after the news conference he plans to huddle with Kroenke to catch up on where the coach search stands.

"There's a potential to talk to additional candidates. But we've talked to two great guys already," Connelly said, adding that he didn't want to set any timeline for hiring a coach.

Asked for the kinds of qualities he wants in a coach, Connelly said, "What I really want  and what I want to focus on is a culture of continuity and the ability to work with someone. I think that it's increasingly difficult to reach the heights that we're hoping to reach if you don't have a good working relationship. "

"In terms of style of play, we're a fast-paced team. I mean this is Denver. We're going to play in the 100s (point a games). But I would never try to impose any strategic restraints on a coach," the GM added.

"I'm looking for a good guy, who's excited to have the job and build off where we are presently," Connelly stressed.

Asked what he sees when he looks at the Nugget's roster, Connelly said: "Geez, I see I'm the luckiest guy in the world...I told Josh, it's rare you get jobs like this with a roster with this much talent."

"I'm familiar with all the guys. I know quite a few of them pretty well," he added. "I mean, this is a 57-win team and, again, it's about growing off that. The foundation is there. I think we just have to build off that firm foundation and see some internal growth from some of our own players. Be opportunistic with trades and free-agent signings, and maximize our draft picks."   

"But the cupboard is full. It's an excellent roster," Connelly said.

Connelly was with the Pelicans, formerly the Hornets, for three years and before that he was with the Washington Wizards for 10 years.

Connelly's other duties with the Pelicans included draft preparation, trade negotiations and player contracts.

The Nuggets boast of Connelly's strong international connections, saying he has traveled globally to identify talent around the world. He currently serves on the board of the GEN Basketball Academy, a Sarajevo-based academy funded by NATO, and has assisted with their youth camps.

In addition, Connelly has also worked as an instructor at the NBA’s “Basketball Without Borders” program in Moscow, Russia, last year. His first experience with the program took place in South Africa in 2006. That same summer, he was involved with the Seed Academy in Dakar, Senegal.

In 2007, Connelly visited Dublin, Ireland, to help raise youth awareness of cultural diversity and integration through the sport of basketball and to work with the Irish federation on future basketball related initiatives. More recently, he and his brother Pat Connelly visited England as part of their personal efforts to aid the globalization of basketball.

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