On Wednesday, Josh Kroenke continued his all-out assault on the Nuggets front office after the most successful regular season in franchise history. The Denver Post’s Chris Dempsey is reporting the Nuggets have lost two more front office members in director of player personnel, Mike Bratz, and scouting director Dan Tolzman. While Bratz’s future remains up in the air, the Post’s Benjamin Hochman is reporting Tolzman has taken a “director-level scouting job” with the Raptors. The number of front office members to leave the Nuggets organization this summer now stands at four — and counting.
First, if you haven’t seen Pete D’Alessandro’s introductory press conference as the Sacramento Kings’ new general manager, I highly suggest you take the time to watch it. It’s very interesting from a Nuggets fan’s standpoint. Why? Because Pete D’Al comes off as an incredibly intelligent, incredibly savvy, incredibly hungry and incredibly passionate dude. You know, the exact type of guy who generally succeeds in the everyday world and who usually isn’t found in an NBA front office. I must admit: I wasn’t really depressed about the Nuggets’ offseason debacle until I watched that press conference. That’s sort of when it hit me, as in: Holy crap, is this really happening? While there’s no guarantee D’Al will turn into the next Masai Ujiri, it doesn’t take a genius to recognize talent — and that dude has it. At this juncture I feel pretty confident saying the Nuggets lost two of the future (and current, in Ujiri’s case) top five general managers in the league.
In his presser D’Al talked for a long time. He answered many questions and even gave a shoutout to the Sacramento Kings TrueHoop blog, Cowbell Kingdom. But of the half hour he spent covering everything from his childhood to advanced statistics, one specific part of his speech stood out like a sore thumb, and that was his explanation as to why he fled Denver to Sacramento. This is what he had to say:
To work with Josh would have been incredible. But when are you gonna step out? And when are you gonna do your thing? When are you gonna actually take a leap and believe in what you can do? I’ve always been that second guy. I’ve always been, you know, the guy who could help. And we’ve had success everywhere I’ve gone. And I feel I’m ready.
That one paragraph said more about the current state of the Nuggets than any columnist, blogger or talking head has said over the last three weeks since Ujiri first announced he was leaving for Toronto. In a brief, eight-sentence monologue, D’Al essentially confirmed the one thing we’ve been wanting to know all along: Yes, Josh Kroenke is heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of Denver Nuggets; and no, he doesn’t plan on relinquishing those duties anytime soon.
Remember, D’Al was in the running for the HEAD general manager position in Denver. He was supposed to be replacing Ujiri to be THE guy. He wasn’t interviewing to be assistant GM. He was already assistant GM. Yet… yet… D’Al TOTALLY answered that question as if he was STILL going to be playing second fiddle to someone else. That someone else, obviously being the aforementioned Josh Kroenke.
This summer it’s become very apparent that Josh Kroenke is running the show in Denver; however, I feel his exact role in the organization has been somewhat blurry… until now. To me, that D’Al quote said it all. I know it’s an extremely small sample size and usually I’m not one to over analyze the routine banalities of a press conference, but this is an exception. D’Al’s was honest as he could be throughout that entire interview. He didn’t skate around anything and made a point of answering each question with authenticity. (After all, this was his introduction to thousands of Kings fans across the globe.) When asked why he left the Nuggets, D’Al made it very clear he wanted to be lead dog and even if he’d been named to Masai Ujiri’s old position he still wouldn’t have had complete oversight of the decision-making process. This can only lead us to believe that whomever is general manager in Denver will always answer to Josh Kroenke — or at least, that’s the way it seems at this period in Nuggets history.
Josh Kroenke’s insistence on turning the Nuggets into a monarchy rather than a democracy has resulted in the departure of George Karl, Masai Ujiri, Pete D’Alessandro and several top executives responsible for scouting, which the Nuggets have been superb at over the last three years. Instead of modestly bestowing more responsibilities upon himself, Kroenke has brashly overturned the most promising front office unit in the NBA. And all for the sake of what? An ego? An unwavering belief in himself and his own abilities? Look, any man with a brain and an opinion can possess conviction. Give that man a few million dollars and you’ve got the recipe for one hell of a power trip. But surrounding yourself with other intelligent people, understanding the true value of different opinions, and having the humility to let others take a tad more credit than they possibly deserved — that takes wisdom. In this regard, it seems Josh Kroenke may have missed the boat. Because while he’s paying George Karl $3 million next year NOT to coach basketball, he could have easily had Masai Ujiri and most likely his entire team back by his side for not too much more.