2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Next order of business for Nuggets: Find a coach

Published: June 20, 2013, 11:01 pm, by Paul Klee

This goes along with Friday’s column on the Nuggets new GM.

I see a handful of similarities between new Nuggets GM Tim Connelly and former Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri.

The background in scouting, particularly overseas. Working up the NBA ladder to land a GM gig at a young age (Connelly is 36; Ujiri was 39).

Most of all, there’s a likable personality that hides a fiery competitive streak. Neither strikes me as as guy afraid to play hardball. Despite their relatively young age, they won’t get pushed around in a negotiation.

But Connelly is faced with an early challenge Ujiri never had in Denver: Hiring a head coach.

“The two guys we talked with are tremendous,” Connelly said, referring to Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and ex-Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, who have interviewed with the Nuggets.

I would be surprised if the Nuggets’ choice is Hollins. This doesn’t sound like a description of one of Hollins’ teams at Memphis:

“In terms of style of play, we’re a fast-paced team,” Connelly said. “This is Denver. We’re going to play in the 100s.”

This was the second time Josh Kroenke has used the word “fun” when describing the basketball culture he wants at Pepsi Center. Hollins isn’t known as a “fun” guy. Maybe he is, I don’t know. But that’s not his reputation. I think Kroenke is looking for a youthful, upbeat, promising head coach.

Connelly suggested the Nuggets aren’t in a hurry and won’t necessarily go with Hollins or Shaw.

There is “the potential to interview more candidates,” the new GM said.

One thought: the Nuggets dragged their feet once — maybe twice — already in this tumultuous offseason. You don’t want that to happen with the coaching search and allow the Clippers, Grizzlies, Sixers, etc., to snag the best candidates on the market. They allowed Masai Ujiri and Pete D’Alessandro to escape. I don’t fault the Nuggets for failing to match Toronto’s offer with Ujiri; I simply wonder why a deal wasn’t done during the season, when they knew he was a keeper and his contract was winding down.

Then, D’Alessandro was Kroenke’s first choice to replace Ujiri — but Sacramento scooped in and stole him away.

“Pete and I discussed the (GM) position,” Kroenke said.

I haven’t agreed with the doomsdayers, those who say the Nuggets in a world of hurt after seeing five members of their front office leave or get fired. The roster is still intact. Even so, it raises an eyebrow when the front office of a 57-win team runs for the hills.

The Nuggets got a good one in Connelly.

And his first order of business is a big one: Helping the Nuggets find their next coach.

The reshaping of the Nuggets front office continues.

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette