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Jace Frederick: Timberwolves have right basketball people for the job. They just have to be allowed to do it.

Minnesota lured Connelly away from Denver, where he helped build a Western Conference power, to the Midwest with a big bag of money.

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New Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly, second right, holds a team jersey as he is introduced at The Courts at Mayo Clinic Square in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. Standing with Connelly are the team’s ownership group, from left, Alex Rodriguez, Marc Lore and Glen Taylor, right.<br/><br/>
John Autey / Pioneer Press
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MINNEAPOLIS — By all accounts, Tim Connelly was a home-run hire for the Timberwolves.

Minnesota lured Connelly away from Denver, where he helped build a Western Conference power, to the Midwest with a big bag of money.

Connelly noted he was happy in Denver, where he drafted a now two-time MVP as well as a couple of co-stars capable of potentially lifting the Nuggets to an NBA championship. His children were born there. He says he was very happy personally.

But Connelly was intrigued by the directness and honesty with which Wolves ownership brass spoke during his hiring process. He noted how much Minnesota has on its roster and the franchise’s current trajectory.

“I think it’s a team and organization that its best days are in front of us and hopefully, again, I get out of the way, and hope I don’t mess it up too much,” Connelly said at his introductory press conference Tuesday in Minneapolis. “But there’s a real sense here that this place can do something special, and I hope I can play some small role along with the people up here on this stage.”

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Joining him on stage were the bulk of Minnesota’s ownership group of Glen Taylor, Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore. The latter two have long had their sights on a big name to fill the position of basketball boss, and landed a sizable fish in Connelly.

“Obviously, when Tim’s name comes up in any conversation, he’s coveted by probably all 30 teams,” Rodriguez said. “Even though there’s a couple out there that have the best of the best, we put Tim right up there.”

He’s earned that type of recognition and notoriety with the roster he built in Denver, from big names like Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray, to role players such as Bones Hyland and Monte Morris. Connelly himself noted Tuesday the draft is an “inexact” science, but he seems to have the formula measured better than most.

His resume and success are big reasons why the Timberwolves were so aggressive in their pursuit of Connelly, even with a more-than-suitable candidate in Sachin Gupta already in the building. They wanted to take a big swing, and they hit it out of the park.

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In some ways, it seems early for such proclamations. The Timberwolves haven’t been to the second round of the NBA playoffs since 2004. This spring marked the first playoff experience for a number of key players on the roster, who are still in the infant stages of their careers. Going from that to championship is quite a leap.
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And, frankly, that should be the end of their work in that department. They landed one of the best in the business to run the Timberwolves’ basketball operations. Connelly will oversee Gupta and head coach Chris Finch, who quickly is establishing himself as one of the game’s premier bench bosses. The pieces are certainly in place for Minnesota to flourish for years to come.

It’s the exact setup that ownership groups across pro sports leagues yearn for. So now it’s time to step back and let them work. Connelly saying he hopes to play a “small” role in the Timberwolves’ success was likely more a result of modesty. It should be a big role. Basketball decisions should end with him.

For so long, Lore has noted his business philosophy includes hiring the best people for key positions, then letting them steer the ship. He says the same will be true here in Minnesota.

“It starts with core values and we really believe, Alex and I both, and Glen as well and Becky (Taylor), in really trust and empowerment. That’s really the starting point,” Lore said. “It’s not trust but verify, it’s just trust. We have full confidence and trust in Tim and he’s going to be empowered to build a first-class, world-class organization. Full stop.”

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If it actually plays out that way, the Timberwolves will likely be in great shape. But that is so rarely true in pro sports, the NBA included. It certainly hasn’t always been the case with the Wolves under Glen Taylor’s oversight. And the subsequent results speak for themselves. Few teams that do feature heavy ownership hands in personnel decisions fare well on the field, court, etc.

So often there is too much involvement at the very top level, which prevents the most knowledgeable, qualified people in the room from making what they believe is the best decision. Such circumstances taking place here is about the only way you could see this current situation going awry.

“We have a lot of really qualified and talented people in this building. There’s been 100 percent alignment,” Finch said. “That’s the key with this, alignment with ownership all the way down to the star player. When you have that, you have a chance. Now, surround that with the right like-minded talent, and whether that be players or basketball ops staff, then you have a chance to keep building.”

The Timberwolves’ ownership group should be lauded for going out and getting Connelly to establish what looks like a top-tier group of decision-makers within its basketball operations division.

Similar praise will again be delivered if, a couple years down the line, it’s apparent ownership let those qualified people do their jobs.

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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