CHICAGO — The Washington Wizards made an offer to Tim Connelly to become the team’s next president of basketball operations Friday, a person close to the situation said.
Connelly, the top basketball executive of the Denver Nuggets who got his professional start with the Wizards, met with majority owner Ted Leonsis and consultant Mike Forde in Washington. It was not immediately known whether Connelly accepted the job. On Friday afternoon, a person with knowledge of the discussions said Leonsis informed the other three candidates of the team’s decision to offer the job to Connelly. A different person familiar with the situation, however, said that was not the case.
Connelly, 41, remains under contract with the Nuggets, who were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Portland Trail Blazers. Although Washington’s is the only job that would tempt him to leave Denver — a fact known by Nuggets President Josh Kroenke — an ally of Connelly’s speculated he would not leave for a deal lower than $4 million annually for five years.
The Wizards have recently conducted second interviews with interim president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard, along with outside candidates Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver. Shortly after Gersson Rosas’s first interview with the Wizards in late April, he was hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Connelly had previously told close associates that he did not want to interview for the job — for myriad reasons but not out of disinterest in returning to Washington. Only a serious meeting would prompt Connelly to leave Chicago, where he was attending the NBA draft combine to evaluate and interview prospects, to discuss the job with Leonsis and Forde.
The Athletic was first to report Friday’s offer.
Since Connelly became the Nuggets’ vice president of basketball operations in 2013, the team has gradually improved after winning 30-plus games to contending in the stacked Western Conference. Although Denver lacks appeal as a free agent destination, Connelly has built a core through the draft.
In 2014, the Nuggets acquired Gary Harris Jr. and Jusuf Nurkic, the 14th and 16th picks, respectively, in a draft-day deal with the Chicago Bulls. Later in that draft, Denver used the 41st pick in the second round on Nikola Jokic, a little-known Serbian prospect at the time.
This season, with Jokic ascending to all-star status and Harris rounding into one of the game’s best young two-way players, Denver finished 54-28 and fell one win short of advancing to the conference finals. The Nuggets also have 21-year-old Jamal Murray, who averaged 21.3 points in the playoffs, secured on the roster for several years.
Connelly received a contract extension in February to continue guiding one of the best young teams in the league. Still, the Friday meeting with the Wizards appeared to have been an inevitability. Connelly had previously talked with Forde, the consultant assisting Leonsis with the job search and franchise reboot after the April 2 firing of Ernie Grunfeld. Just hours after Grunfeld’s dismissal, Connelly’s name was linked to the job.
If Connelly accepts the job, he would be leaving a good situation in Denver for a looming rebuild in Washington. The Wizards finished with an underwhelming record of 32-50 this season and earned the ninth pick in the upcoming draft, and John Wall’s “supermax” contract paired with Bradley Beal’s remaining two years have absorbed the majority of the team’s salary cap space. Still, Connelly’s roots — and motivations for the Wizards’ job — run deep.
Originally from west Baltimore, Connelly attended Catholic University and earned an internship with the Wizards while in college. The team hired Connelly as an assistant video coordinator after he graduated in 1999, and he stayed with the franchise, moving up to player personnel and scouting roles before leaving in 2010 for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Connelly’s older brother, Joe, also once worked with the Wizards on the player development staff.
The three other hopefuls also all have local ties. Ferry, who had a second interview for the job Wednesday, is the son of Bob Ferry, the Washington Bullets’ general manager from 1973 to 1990. Weaver, an Oklahoma City Thunder executive, attended Archbishop Carroll High and Prince George’s Community College and co-founded the DC Assault AAU program.
Sheppard, who has been with the Wizards since 2003, has served as the team’s president of basketball operations for the past month and a half.
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