Utah Jazz: Dennis Lindsey, Kevin O'Connor to team in expanded Jazz brain trust
Kevin O'Connor to remain as executive vice president of basketball operations
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Kevin O'Connor isn't going anywhere, but the Utah Jazz have a new general manager.
The organization introduced Dennis Lindsey of the San Antonio Spurs as the team's new GM on Tuesday while also announcing that O'Connor will maintain his role as executive vice president of basketball operations.
The moves expand the Jazz's basketball brain trust, which also includes Richard Smith (director of basketball operations), Walt Perrin (vice president of player personnel), David Fredman (head scout), Rich Shuebrooks (executive director of global and pro scouting) and Jefferson Sweeney (video coordinator).
As for their roles, O'Connor will continue to oversee the Jazz from an executive position, and Lindsey will be the go-to guy who deals with the daily grind, the ins and outs, and working with agents, players and potential trade partners around the league to build the team.
The Jazz consider it a win-win situation to keep O'Connor in the family while adding another bright basketball talent from championship organizations (Spurs and Rockets).
"The addition of Dennis to the Jazz front office staff further demonstrates the Miller family's commitment to this franchise," Jazz president Randy Rigby said. "He will be a key element of our basketball operations staff that we already believe is the best in the league."
O'Connor said the idea of relinquishing his GM role has been in the works for a couple of years, and he believes the Jazz struck gold with Lindsey.
The new GM spent the past five seasons with the Spurs as the assistant general manager after cutting his teeth for 11 years in Houston, where he worked his way up from video coordinator to director of player personnel.
"I've got a new playmate," O'Connor said with a smile, adding that he eagerly anticipates engaging in basketball banter and working with Lindsey in analyzing the franchise's future.
Jazz CEO Greg Miller welcomed Lindsey to the organization during the press conference, saying he's both "thrilled" and "honored" to have the Texas native in the Utah fold. The Jazz received permission from San Antonio about three weeks ago to pursue the right hand man of Spurs GM R.C. Buford.
"I view your arrival here as an almost tangible step in our march to a championship," Miller said.
Lindsey was excited to make the move to the Beehive State and into the Jazz organization because he believes it's a good personal and professional fit for him and his Texas-rooted family of six.
"Look," he said, "the culture here, what the program stands for, I can identify with. ... It wasn't a difficult decision at all."
Lindsey jokingly warned fans that he might use a lot of rodeo references in interviews because of his Texas background.
Lindsey was sold on making the move from a franchise with four championships after hearing how Greg Miller answered his question about how he decided to hire Tyrone Corbin as Jerry Sloan's successor.
According to Lindsey, Miller's response was: "Ty's poise through rough waters, his calmness, his character really stood out."
"I knew at that moment," Lindsey said, ".... I had to do whatever it took to get the job."
O'Connor was willing to continue working as GM if the Jazz couldn't find a suitable replacement, but he considers Lindsey a "high-character individual" and a "proven talent evaluator." The longtime Jazz executive, who was the second-longest tenured general manager in the NBA until Tuesday, was sold on Lindsey when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told him San Antonio ownership would hire him to be GM in the hypothetical case they bought a new team.
"Kevin is just a jewel," Lindsey said. "He handled this with humility and concern for the organization."
O'Connor joined the Jazz after the NBA Finals runs in 1999 and helped rebuild Utah into a playoff team after the departures of John Stockton and Sloan and then following the surprising exits of Sloan and Deron Williams.
Though occasionally criticized for things such as Andrei Kirilenko's $86 million deal and drafting Raul Lopez instead of Tony Parker, O'Connor has received much praise for trading up to draft Williams in 2005 and for bringing overlooked talents like Paul Millsap, Wesley Matthews and Mo Williams into the league.
During the press conference, Jazz owner Gail Miller shared a sweet sentiment with O'Connor.
"We're very grateful that you're staying on, that you'll continue to be a part of the Utah Jazz," a teary-eyed Miller said. "We need you. We appreciate you. You can mentor a lot of people that will look to you for the wisdom that you have."
Miller teased herself for shedding a few tears.
"Emotions run deep in the Jazz family," she said. "I know Larry would be crying if he was here."
Miller, whose organization is well known for being loyal, also told Lindsey: "The only thing you can do to lose our support is do something really, really crazy."
Lindsey's family will take a previously planned vacation in the next week before he returns to Utah to get to work — and finishes up exit interviews in San Antonio to leave on a good note. His wife, Betty, will eventually return to search for a Salt Lake City-area home and schools for their children.
Lindsey said he has respected Utah's organization from afar, even when he worked for the Rockets and Stockton hit that famous shot over Charles Barkley in Houston to send the Jazz to the 1997 NBA Finals.
Lindsey, who played college hoops for Baylor from 1988-92, believes his San Antonio experience gives him a unique perspective on how to help the Jazz. He listed similarities, including both teams being in small markets, having competitive natures, taking a "no-nonsense" approach to basketball, believing in working hard and "doing the right things."
Lindsey only hopes to "complement" the strong Jazz tradition of winning. He lauded the key figures in building this organization into a well-respected NBA franchise, including the Millers, Frank and Scott Layden, Sloan and Phil Johnson, Stockton and Karl Malone, among others.
"I'm not trying to change a culture," he said.
That said, Lindsey is a big believer in advanced statistics, so there could be changes on how the organization works with that mathematical trend. He'll wait to evaluate before making other implementations.
First off for Lindsey, though, is building relationships within the Jazz organization — with the front office, to Tyrone Corbin and the coaching staff, to the players and periphery employees.
"My message to Ty was short and sweet," Linsdey said. "I want a relationship built upon honesty and respect."
Corbin was impressed by Lindsey's humble approach.
"It's about the team and the organization and what's best for that," Corbin said, referring to Lindsey's mindset, "so I'm looking forward to working with him."
Rigby admitted the team made only one job offer — to Lindsey.
And the new general manager's thoughts on the current status of his new team?
"My assessment," Lindsey said, "is that Kevin and the organization have done an outstanding job to come out of the Layden-Stockton-Malone-Sloan era and to be standing on firm, steady ground, to stand for something, to have veterans that are young veterans that have good young players that can be developed and that will improve, to have great flexibility, hopefully to keep the core intact, I feel incredibly fortunate to be here standing in front of you guys here today with a great core and flexibility."
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