The Nuggets announced the hiring of Ben Tenzer as director of team operations on Friday, a move that signifies the first management shakeup under new GM Tim Connelly and one more step in a complete tear-down of the front office responsible for the 2012-2013 executive of the year award.
Like Connelly, Tenzer joins the Nuggets as a young, relatively unknown candidate for a high-level front office position. Denver’s new executive staff still has important holes to fill in the scouting department, but the hiring of Tenzer essentially completes the core of the Nuggets’ front office team under Tim Connelly, continuing a collaborative approach to management that goes back to the days of Mark Warkentein and Rex Chapman.
Josh Kroenke was in the middle of all those front office regimes, so it’s not surprising he’s keeping the same management structure intact. While it may seem unsettling that Josh has opted for young unknowns over more experienced candidates, Nuggets fans should remember they’ve been here before. Kroenke took an almost identical approach the last time he turned over management teams in 2010, from former executive of the year Mark Warkentein to a then-unknown Masai Ujiri.
Having not heard of Tim Connelly until the Nuggets hired him, I was fascinated to learn more about him and a little surprised to discover how similar he is to Masai. Both shot up the executive ranks with scouting backgrounds and both were fast-rising assistant GMs before being lured to Denver. Their management styles could turn out to be completely different but on the surface, it seems Connelly shares the same kind of skill set and leadership qualities that made Masai a wonderful fit.
Likewise, Ben Tenzer joins the Nuggets sharing a lot of qualities with his predecessor, the recently departed Pete D’Alessandro. The CU grad has a law background and worked on the business side with the league office and Wasserman Media Group, a sports agency. Even less is known about the Nuggets’ latest hire but it seems they are looking for him to provide salary cap expertise in a role not unlike the one recently vacated by D’Alessandro.
This is a new management team with new ideas and leadership, but once again we are seeing Josh Kroenke handpick front office colleagues in a manner eerily similar to his last go-around in 2010. Denver had success with that model in the past, but as Kalen aptly pointed out the Nuggets also just lost two highly qualified executives who simply longed for more freedom than the position of Nuggets GM really offered.
For better or worse, the Nuggets’ latest hires suggest they are looking to preserve the same management style with Josh Kroenke at the center of all front office decisions. From that standpoint it is important to get the right kind of complimentary minds alongside him and these look like two excellent hires which should accomplish that goal.
If nothing else, the Nuggets getting their front office in order ahead of the draft and free agency is a positive sign. On top of that oncoming whirlwind is the whole issue of finding a new coach, only a franchise-changing decision that could make or break this new front office regime. Either way there is a lot at stake and much work to be done.
We shouldn’t expect Tim Connelly to just pick up where Masai Ujiri left off, but the similarities between the new regime and the old send a strong message that the Nuggets aren’t changing their formula for front office success. The buck still stops with Josh Kroenke, who is ushering in the Connelly era much in the same way he did with Masai. It’s not exactly continuity, but if the goal is to preserve some of the harmony in the old front office the Nuggets are taking a very similar approach with the new one.