Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Dennis Lindsey, the young, new general manager of the Utah Jazz, never forgets that amid the barrage of phone calls, meetings, negotiations, contract issues and media interviews that come with his job, he must return to the fundamentals of his profession. Every day, he shuts off the lights and the phone, ignores the email and watches videotape in the darkness of his office, stopping only to make notes.
"One thing I've been told is that the higher you move up in an organization the further you get away from basketball," he says. "That's a mistake. The lifeblood is player procurement and keeping good players. I block off certain periods of the day so that I can get back to the core of what I do and one of my strengths."
This is where his NBA career began, watching video, and it's one of the reasons he has risen rapidly from the bottom of the front office to the top: He is skilled at evaluating basketball players.
As Jazz executive vice president Kevin O'Connor notes, "When you look at the draft, it's not so much taking guys like Tim Duncan first. That's a no-brainer." He points to three less obvious and overlooked players Lindsey selected as assistant general manager of the San Antonio Spurs — DuJuan Blair (the 36th pick of the 2009 draft), Tiago Splitter (28th in 2007) and Danny Green (plucked from the developmental league in 2009).
"Those are things you notice and you go 'ooooh,' " says O'Connor. "Will those guys be all-stars? Probably not. But they're good players on a terrific team and they were undervalued; they should've been picked higher. That is a guy who is a proven talent evaluator."
The 43-year-old Lindsey becomes only the fifth general manager hired by the Jazz since they arrived in Utah in 1979. O'Connor held the position for 14 years — second-longest in the NBA at the time — while also pulling double duty as vice president of basketball operations.
Early last year, the Jazz, convinced they were understaffed by NBA standards, decided they needed someone to share the load — more specifically, someone to take over the GM duties. Because of the lockout, they postponed the search until this summer. With a preliminary list of potential candidates, Jazz president Randy Rigby began calling team executives around the NBA.
"Dennis' name kept popping up," he says. "I did some Googling and learned a lot about him."
Lindsey, the Spurs' assistant GM at the time, wasn't on the original search list, but now he was. Rigby received permission from the Spurs to interview him.
Says Rigby, "What I liked was the consistency of what people were saying about Dennis — a high-quality character, very collaborative, a team player, very bright, not a big ego, a strong family man — that was very important, too."
"We hired Dennis because he has the same DNA we do," says O'Connor. "You see the guys from other teams in the stands at college games. Dennis and I spent a lot of time together on the road. You look at the way he conducts himself. You see what kind of person he is. You see how he treats other people. You see if he's considerate and has a good attitude and arrives early for the game. That's a premium with us. I liked his professionalism."
Apparently, others were similarly impressed. Lindsey had been offered jobs by several clubs in recent years but decided they weren't a good fit. When Utah called, he knew immediately this could be the chance he was looking for. He admired the Jazz organization for the values they espoused and the caliber of the teams they put on the court — a team much like the Spurs. He discussed the situation with his two teenage sons.
"They had been through it a couple of times (job offers)," he says. "I told my boys,'We're going to speak to Utah. I need you boys to know this is a club we have some alignment with. You need to think about it because I am excited to speak to them.' "
After meeting with Jazz ownership — Greg and Gail Miller — and key Jazz executives, he was sold.
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