ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

New basketball czar Tim Connelly says he’s here ‘not to mess up’ what Timberwolves have going on

‘We’re going to work as hard as possible to push the envelope a bit,’ Connelly said.

jea-01-Tim-Connelly-Intro.jpg
New Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly, left, shakes hands with team co-owner Glen Taylor on Tuesday as he is introduced during a news conference at The Courts at Mayo Clinic Square in downtown Minneapolis.<br/><br/>
John Autey / Pioneer Press
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINNEAPOLIS — Word on the street is the Timberwolves have something going on in Minnesota, and Tim Connelly decided he wanted to be a part of it.

“I’m here not to mess it up,” Connelly said Tuesday after being introduced as the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations.

He’s being modest, of course. Connelly’s reputation, and the job he has done running the Denver Nuggets the past nine years, had Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor convinced he wasn’t available. His team had been looking for a permanent director of basketball ops since suddenly firing Gersson Rosas last September.

“I didn’t have him on the list,” Taylor said Tuesday. “I thought he was under contract with Denver, so I didn’t have him as the first person to contact.”

Connelly had a contract option to remain in Denver, and would have been more than happy to do so. But Taylor called and asked for permission to speak with Connelly, the Kroenke ownership family said yes, and “that sort of started it,” Taylor said.

ADVERTISEMENT

A five-year, $40 million contract no doubt helped, so did a series of potential bonuses. “If the team does well,” Taylor said, “he does better.”

If one includes interim managers Scott Layden and Sachin Gupta, Connelly is the Wolves’ sixth head of basketball operations since Flip Saunders passed away on Oct. 25, 2015.

“When you spend time in the room with these guys and you’re in this beautiful building and you’re around town and sense the excitement the T-Wolves have created, you know it’s a special place,” Connelly said. “We’re going to work as hard as possible to push the envelope a bit and hopefully we have new franchise records, keep building off where we are.”

Connelly, 46, started as an intern in Washington’s scouting department in 1996 and left 15 years later as director of player personnel. After three years as New Orleans’ assistant general manager, he was hired by Denver as its executive vice president of basketball operations and general manager in 2013.

MORE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES COVERAGE:
Pro
Grady replaces longtime voice Dave Benz, whose contract was not renewed this offseason
Pro
Nine of the Wolves’ first 12 games will be played at Target Center, a friendly runway for a team that will be acclimating newly acquired center Rudy Gobert and a number of other fresh faces into the fold.
Pro
In some ways, it seems early for such proclamations. The Timberwolves haven’t been to the second round of the NBA playoffs since 2004. This spring marked the first playoff experience for a number of key players on the roster, who are still in the infant stages of their careers. Going from that to championship is quite a leap.
Pro
“But just the guys you know, the people in this organization, the people in the locker room, the friends I’ve been able to make here in Minnesota, it just feels like home,” Towns said.
Pro
A second-round pick in last month’s NBA Draft, the Italian point guard is getting a three-week crash course in NBA basketball at Summer League before heading back to Italy.
Pro
Timberwolves believe ‘there’s no reason why it won’t’
Pro
Finch already has displayed what he can do with less-than-the-best talent in this league during his short tenure with the Timberwolves.
Pro
Minnesota acquired three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert from Utah in exchange for four first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, along with Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro and Walker Kessler
Pro
Entrenching Gobert in the post defensively would likely help alleviate Towns’ foul trouble concerns and take some pressure off him altogether defensively throughout the regular season
Pro
The 28-year-old is belovingly referred to as “Slo-Mo” — because while the 6-foot-9 forward had a vast skillset, he succeeds in spite of a lack of speed

The Nuggets were 36-46 in Connelly’s first season, but in his past four, the Nuggets have made the Western Conference finals once (2020) and the conference semifinals twice (2019, 2021) while averaging 48.7 wins a season.

The team made the postseason again in 2021-22 despite playing without two-thirds of its Big Three, Jamal Murray (knee surgery) and Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery). The third member of that group is center Nikola Jokic, who won this season’s Most Valuable Player Award after averaging 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Nuggets.

All three players were drafted under Connelly’s watch.

“We have full confidence and trust in Tim and he’s going to be empowered to build a first-class, world-class organization. Full stop,” said Marc Lore, a Timberwolves co-owner who, with partner Alex Rodriguez, will become majority owner by the end of 2023.

ADVERTISEMENT

Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch was the Nuggets’ associate head coach under Mike Malone in 2016 and has known Connelly since he was coaching overseas in the mid-2000s.

“He’s not a micromanager, he’s not an emotional reactor, or an emotional communicator,” Finch said. “He cares deeply but he gives people the space to work and respects the emotions that go into our game. We have an open dialog. He will challenge you, and I think that’s good — we all need that — but it’s done in a way that is about finding the best answers.”

Connelly said he likely will add some members to the Timberwolves’ front office but added that he likes the team already in place, including Finch, who on April 11 signed a contract extension for at least the next four seasons . Under Finch, the Wolves improved from 36 wins in 2020-21 to 46 wins and a playoff berth in 2021-22. They went 3-1 against the Nuggets this season.

“It was a blast watching you guys play,” Connelly said. “Not a blast watching us play against you guys.”

Finch and his new colleagues will hit the ground running.

While the Timberwolves had a strong turnaround this season, the organization eyes personnel changes before next season begins in October. Connelly has decisions to make about guards D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley. Connelly also must decide whether to sign all-star center Karl-Anthony Towns to the super-max contract for which he is now eligible, a four-year extension worth $210.9 million that would build upon the two years remaining on his current deal.

Oh, and the NBA Draft is in three weeks.

“I don’t know if success is always linear. I don’t know if we’re going to go from here to a championship,” Connelly said. “I think we have to be realistic about where we are and how we can get better.”

ADVERTISEMENT

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

What to read next
Pro
Darrisaw has drawn comparisons to a young Williams, including from the star himself
Pro
'He’s always been one of my favorite guys, not only as a football player but also as a person,' Shanahan said
Pro
Walker posted 10 goals and 16 assists as a freshman, 11 goals and 19 assists as a sophomore, 13 goals and 16 assists as a junior, and finally, 14 goals and 13 assists as a senior at the U of M.
Pro
Minnesota’s rotation just hasn’t been very good when pitching deep into games