Kroenke Sports Enterprises (hereafter known as KSE) have never been known to extend their management early. The policy has been clear and set down through 15 years of Denver Nuggets ownership "You play out your contract" has always been the modus operandi. This has been stubbornly stuck to even when it hurt the organization (former General Manager Masai Ujiri and the famous "handshake agreement" on an extension) and threw things into chaos.
It was out of this chaos that Nuggets current General Manager and beneficiary of a brand spanking new contract extension, Tim Connelly, emerged as the team's new guiding light. It was a tremendously difficult situation on multiple levels, not the least of which was Connelly's relative inexperience as a GM. Connelly spent many years as a scout and had developed contacts all over the country but more importantly Europe from the Washington Wizards (Bullets) and New Orleans Pelicans (Hornets) where he served as assistant General Manager to Dell Demps.
Yet, in the wake of Masai Ujiri's exit, there was a massive mess to clean up. Ujiri, and then Assistant General Manager Pete D'Allesandro's departures had taken with them the Nuggets ENTIRE scouting department. There was no front office structure to be found when Connelly was hired a mere six days before new head coach Brian Shaw was installed in the coaching seat left vacant by the fired George Karl.
With this infrastructure gone, the Nuggets were left with a bare bones committee of President and Governor Josh Kroenke, Connelly and Shaw to make decisions on the fast approaching NBA Draft, Draft Day trades and Free agency. In some ways they did the best they could all things considered, in other ways some misheld assumptions based on the existing roster lead to a confusing offseason and 2013-14 season. With injured Danilo Gallinari, and a somewhat mismatched locker room the (and a JaVale McGee who was less than participatory in his own rehab process) Nuggets were able to stitch together 36 wins.
By any measure, that off season and following season with Shaw and the Nuggets was an incomplete. With the signings of Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson being highly questionable. The Shaw-era, from his choice of assistants to his ability to handle players was by any measure a disaster. Where was the light on the horizon? After a second season full of turmoil and eventual firing of Shaw, a change of culture was needed.
And change it came.
Where Connelly and his entire staff (including Assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas, Head Scout Dan Clibinof, Analytics Head Tommy Balcetis and head International Scout Rafal Juc) received extensions primarily because of an incredible eye for international drafting. Or drafting in general.
Connelly's draft picks include
Joffrey Lauvergne (2nd round 2013)
Jusuf Nurkic (1st round 2014)
Gary Harris (1st round 2014)
Nikola Jokic (2nd round 2014)
Emmanuel Mudiay (1st round 2015)
On the basis of these picks that Connelly deserved the extension he received on Tuesday. The Nuggets eye for finding talent in the second round, particularly that of Jokic has been such a revelation, considering the Nuggets own history of drafting is so spotty. Finding these gems, including first rounders Mudiay, Harris and Nurkic have shown that there is some glimmers of hope. A light on the horizon that maybe we didn't see before.
Is that ENOUGH for an extension though? There are people who will tell you that extending Tim Connelly and the entire front office was a continuation of a mistake made by Josh Kroenke that fateful summer of 2013 where Masai and Karl were cast aside. Yet, as we hopefully move on from that time and turn the page ... as we must, everyone has to understand that continuity is more important than almost anything.
Maybe the shifting of ownership of the Nuggets to Ann Walton Kroenke has pointed to a new direction. Maybe Team President and Governor Josh Kroenke should be given credit for shifting his father's long-held and increasingly destructive policy of waiting until his manager's contracts are completed before extending? I believe so. While Josh Kroenke's Governorship of the Nuggets has been by no means a consistently good, this does point toward some encouraging signs of willingness to stay consistent maintain continuity that the Nuggets have desperately needed.
All in all, I'm happy that Josh Kroenke made the decision to extend Connelly. Now we can see a vision fully played out and given a chance that was missed in 2013. The promise of the Nuggets draft choices now has a chance to fully blossom. The big test of a major offseason looms, and having yet another GM search during this uncertain time would have been destructive. Continuity won.
Below is the entire Connelly comments after his extension was announced. Enjoy the video!