Nuggets’ new front office taking shape in familiar fashion

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.

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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • Scott

    I heard Houston wants to trade Thomas Robinson for a pick so that they can clear cap space for D12. This is perfect for us! Give them Andre Miller and Pick #27 for Robinson and like Toney Douglas (I don’t know if he’s still on that team).

    • steve

      they want to rid themselves of the contract, so they have more room to sign d12. they need to gain another few million in cap space.. so, no way will they take andre, unfortunately.

      • Scott

        I know… I just want miller gone….
        Straight up #27 for TRob.

        • steve

          me too…it just won’t be that easy lol.

  • Mikey K

    Sadly, he will remain on the roster till at least some point in the season. As much as I hate saying it and wish no ill-harm to anyone, injuries happen. Someone will get hurt. That will be when Andre goes–when a team loses depth at guard due to injury.

    In the meantime, it will be made clear to the new coach that his ass is to remain firmly planted on the bench unless everyone else is either fouled out or on crutches.

    • Bryan

      If Karl, gets the Memphis job, I think they might be able to unload him on them.

  • Ernie

    Has there been any “off the record” thoughts from someone recently leaving the Nugs about whether or not Josh actually knows what he is doing? If Josh truly is the unqualified member of the “lucky sperm club” he appears to be I would think that would come out similar to the way we found out that Denver offered a first round pick for Doc Rivers. Those kind of leaks never used to happen, but then again we never had people on the inside leave like this before. I’d also think if he’s somewhow a skilled and competent basketball insider who just doesn’t want/need to relinquish any power we would hear something along those lines as well.

    My guess is that Josh is truly unqualified and incapable of getting a job running any of the other 29 teams based on the merits of his basketball knowledge. But it would be nice if we got some inside info from the recent departees on where the truth actually lies.

    • Bryan

      What are you talking about? The Doc Rivers leak clearly came from the Celtics to rattle the Clippers’ cage. And these rumors didn’t come out, see e.g. the Melodrama.

      They didn’t come from the Nuggets. And this clearly didn’t either because he was taking a beating from some of the talking heads in the local media and people like you, when if the reports are true, he was actually making a move for Doc Rivers.

      Releasing the info while people were throwing their tantrums would have been the most opportune time for Kroenke to release the info if saving face was his primary concern.

      • Ernie

        Clearly you don’t understand what I was saying. Based on the time line that the Nuggets thing on Doc came out as right around when the employees left for the Kings. So it is possible those guys are the one’s giving that info to Yahoo, perhaps as a thanks for helping them get the jobs. And since enough front office employees have left the Nuggets recently there should be plenty of sources available to give good info on the quality of Kroenke as a talent evaluator and executive.

        Charlie is suggesting that if Josh was in charge all along the team will be fine, and I’m simply saying there should be plenty of ex-employees to ask that question to. I never said or implied Kroenke had anything to do with giving up that info. Clearly.

        • LBJ

          I doubt that Pete and Masai are going to assert that Joshy boy is a clueless twit. That will more than likely show up in the deals they try and work with him….

        • Bryan

          You said these kind of leaks never happened before and they didn’t.

          If now your supposition is that the former Nuggets executives suddenly started blabbing, you would have your info one way or the other. However, them releasing information as a favor to Kroenke makes absolutely no sense since people were content with Hollins or Shaw.

          Also, it is beyond obvious that the Celtics were the ones to release the info.

          Reports were that the Clippers didn’t want to give up a first round pick. News comes out that the Nuggets offered a first round pick, days later the Clippers give up a first round pick for him. Do the math.

          • Ernie

            Why would Pete or Masai releasing that info be a favor to Kroenke? How would that help Josh? I am not saying that at all. And never did.

            I am saying Pete and others left and likely felt underappreciated. And so they might be more talkative about their time in Denver after they left because they didn’t feel loyalty from the Nuggets.

            If you are convinced the Celts released the info then good for you. But the math was the Celtics didn’t want a first round pick in this draft because this year’s draft stinks, and that’s what the Clips wanted to trade. The only thing that changed was it became a future number one from the Clips to get it done.

            • Mikey K

              But that future pick is 2015. The draft you WANT additional first rounders for, especially if you’re all-in for a blow-it-up rebuild is NEXT year’s draft.

              • Ernie

                The point was Josh Kroenke offered a first rounder in this year’s draft.

              • Mikey K

                From my understanding, Doc had some say in where he went. He wanted a team close to the top that was needing a coach. Look at the landscape of openings and the closest is probably the Clippers. This surely seals CP3 staying put. Blake is signed long term (though I wonder if the Clips still visit a trade for Howard with Blake as bait).

                We don’t have most of the puzzle in place to win a championship. The Clippers do. That’s the team that’s gonna get the championship caliber coach.

  • Charliemyboy

    Don’t expect a leader type coach to work for Kroenke. They don’t want the same suffocation Karl had. We will get an second string coach after losing a first string coach. Any bets?

    • Mikey K

      Karl wasn’t squeezed as coach. If anything, Masai went well out of his way to make Karl’s system work.

      I think we’ll end up with a quality guy as long as it isn’t Del Negro or Hollins. I still think the best bet out there is Shaw. We’ve cleaned house this much. Might as well sink or swim with a guy in his first opportunity to be a HC. If we swim, we make the playoffs and maybe do something great. If not, well, there are worse years to be a lottery team.

  • Mikey K

    I’d like to know why the hell the Nuggets can’t make a deal like the seismic one between the Celtics and Clippers? The aftershocks of which will be Garnett for Jordan and then likely a trade or a straight buy-out of Pierce to be able to go to LA as well.

    If Josh wants something, he should be savvy enough (if it was true that he was as much involved in the deals Masai made as he claims to have been) to pull something like it off. We’re talking about Donald Sterling having just spent a QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS (let that number and all those zeroes sink in a sec) to take his franchise from the butt of league jokes to potential title contender in two seasons.

    It is rather disheartening to see happen…

    • Charlie

      The Nuggets offered a pick but both Boston and Doc Rivers seemed focused on getting a deal done with LAC.

      Had the Garnett trade not been part of the deal initially, I think the Nuggets might have been in the mix to pry Doc from Boston. But it really seems like a situation where he wanted to get to the Clippers and had been trying to get there for a while.

      • Mikey K

        It was nice to hear that Josh made the call to Ainge, but I know Doc was in on where he wanted to go and he wanted LA.

        Just hope that Josh and Connelly can make a deal of that proportion or close that significantly helps the team. He’s talked the talk that last couple weeks, now let’s see the walk.

    • dynamo.joe

      Garnett’s production has been dropping for a couple of years. If you get Jordan (a really good young C, with truly horrific FT%) you win that trade.

      DeAndre Jordan
      Jared Sullinger
      Paul Pierce/Jeff Green
      Courtney Lee
      Rajon Rondo

      That’s a playoff team.

      They even got good minutes from Chris Wilcox this past season and he can shoot FT, so if someone wants to play hack a center, they’ve got an answer.

      • LBJ

        That team would suck – which is why the Celts are dumping Pierce and trying to dump Lee.
        Jordan is pretty much worthless on offense – and if you are in the penalty worse than worthless as he will be fouled intentionally.

  • Michael

    On an unrelated matter, are we going to see and draft reviews like previous years?
    I like Erick Green as a scoring PG, or maybe Ray McCallum as a more all around PG or possibly Isaiah Canaan. If we go for a big i like Mike Muscala or possibly Grant Jarrett as inside/out stretch 4’s.

    • dynamo.joe

      Looks like a lot of guys that were being projected as late 1st early 2nd round guys have moved up considerably. Including Muscala, Reggie Bullock, Adetokumbo (sp?), etc. Kelly Olynyk has dropped but I don’t think he will drop enough for the Nuggets to get him, barring a trade up.

      Unless Muscala or Bullock or Olynyk fall to them, I would like to see them trade down, Maybe they could get an extra 2nd in this draft or next years, where it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to take DJ Stephens. That guy would probably jump immediately to the top of the list as the Nuggets best athlete, which is staggering on a team with the likes of JaVale, Kenneth, AI9, even Ty and Hamilton.

      Not that it’s likely we will continue to use Karl’s switching D, but Stephens can lock down 2/3/4, maybe even 1’s.

      We could use the other 2nd rounder to take Kazemi, cuz we don’t have an Iranian on the team yet.

      • dynamo.joe

        And then we should trade for Omri Casspi, giving us a Greek, a Turk, an Israeli, and an Iranian. That should be a lively mix on the floor and here on the boards, once the fans from those countries find us.

        And that doesn’t even count the Italian, the Frenchman, or the Ruskie.

  • dynamo.joe