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How Tim Connelly Delivered the Denver Nuggets to the Playoffs

2019 CEO of the Year Finalist: After a five-year absence from the NBA Playoffs, Tim Connelly brought the team back to life


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Tim Connelly | President of Basketball Operations

Denver Nuggets, Denver

2019 CEO of the Year Finalist

Tim Connelly, 42, came to the Nuggets in 2013 by way of the New Orleans Pelicans and earned a promotion to team president in 2017.

On the way, he worked "nearly every job you can imagine" in NBA front offices. "I think I'm lucky enough to appreciate the day-to-day responsibilities of nearly every person in the building, but also the stresses that come with that."

Connelly's strategy with the Nuggets has bucked the NBA norm by focusing on player development over flashy free agent signings – at least, at first. "We've had problems traditionally attracting the most elite free agents," he says. "We want to change that narrative about Denver, and the only way to do that is to grow organically."

The roster was just right for the task. "We realized our team was pretty reflective of the city," Connelly says. "Kind of funky, young, pretty aggressive." In the era of the super team, the Nuggets "are really banking on continuity."

He's quick to credit the coaches and the players, but says it took a patient, open culture to deliver the team back into the playoffs last season after a five-year absence. "I can ask you why without being critical," Connelly says. "We have those constant conversations."

The best evidence of buy-in to the approach: "Guys want to be here. The lion's share of our guys live here year-round."

Same goes for Connelly. He and his wife, Negah, host an annual charity ping-pong tournament and enjoy exploring Denver's neighborhoods with their two kids. "We really love it, and now it's home."

With a big season under the team's belt, Connelly says he's looking forward to many Nuggets postseasons to come. "We don't want the expectations to be too heavy. We're still a very young team."

The key lesson of 2018-19? "We started learning how to win."


This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine's annual CEO of the Year feature. Read more about this year's winner John Hayes and the other finalists: 

JANINE DAVIDSON | JOHN FISCHER | NEIL FISHER | RUSTY GREGORY  
HEATHER LAFFERTY | ANDY NEINAS | ROBERT THOMPSON | NANCY WHITEMAN

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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