"He felt Utah was right for him," says Carol Dawson, the former Rockets GM and Lindsey's close friend. "I could see it in his face. I had never seen him like that after the previous offers."
Lindsey, who will collaborate with O'Connor, Rigby and CFO Bob Hyde in building the Jazz and handle the day-to-day operations, still marvels that he has landed here.
"I'm blessed," says Lindsey. "I wanted to be a Division I coach. That was the path. Then the path took a tangent. I could've been happy as a middle-school coach."
Lindsey has a reputation as an open and friendly man who puts everyone at ease immediately.
"Y'all are gonna love him," says Dawson. "He's just an exceptional human being. The way he carries himself. The way he greets people. He doesn't ruffle feathers. He has no ego problems. He's just a good guy."
Dawson, a wonderfully affable man who spent three decades in the NBA, mentored Lindsey in Houston. Lindsey still quotes some of the advice Dawson offered him. Don't make promises you can't deliver. Return every phone call. Treat everyone well — and not just when they have something you need. Always tell the truth. Remember, this is a people business.
Lindsey peppers any conversation about his career with mention of Dawson and Spurs GM R.C. Buford, among others, for the wisdom, guidance and opportunities they gave him. He also makes frequent mention of his parents and his upbringing.
Dennis Sr. and Carol Lindsey raised two children of their own in and around Freeport, Texas, but really they raised many more than that. They lived in and ran the Brazoria County Youth Home, which meant they shared a house with anywhere from 10 to 14 kids at a time. They were black, white, Hispanic and Asian and most had been abused, abandoned and poor. Young Dennis lived with these large, diverse families in three different houses, surrounded by an ever-changing cast of children.
"His folks were so good," says Dawson. "There were no strangers in their house. They were raised as their own."
Says Lindsey, "As a young, selfish teen, I had mixed emotions. I wanted my parents' attention. I mean, when we went to a restaurant, there were 16 of us. But deep down, I knew what they were doing was a gift. To this day, I lean toward those experiences in understanding people. I learned a lot of lessons."
Lindsey discovered basketball in junior high. He insists that his skills on the court were not so much natural as they were developed through hard work. Whatever the reason, he became an all-state high school guard who attended Baylor University for four years on a basketball scholarship.
"In seventh grade I was starting to grow, and I was getting better (in basketball) every day," he says. "I loved the incremental improvement. It was a calling for me. I knew I was going to be in sports and I wanted it to be basketball. I had great clarity early that I have to find a way to make a living out of this. I thought it would be as a college coach."
During his sophomore season at Baylor, Lindsey suffered a tragedy that changed him forever. His parents were driving home after watching Dennis play a game for the Bears when a drunk driver struck their car head-on, killing Carol.
"There are moments that become tangible as to who you are," he says. "It made an immature kid grow up fast. She was key to the family and to who I was."
He returned home for a couple of months to be with his family and to recover from a basketball injury that forced him to miss the rest of the season. He helped care for his sister, who was injured in the accident, and his father, whom he describes as "physically and emotionally devastated."
"You go through life and one door is shut and another opened," he says. "I met my wife very soon after that. I don't think that was by chance. That happened for a reason."
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