Utah Jazz: O'Connor stands behind new GM Lindsey as team moves forward
The whispers began as soon as the news broke.
The Jazz's unexpected August addition of Dennis Lindsey as general manager was widely hailed, even within the closed-off world of NBA executives.
Lindsey was perfect for Utah, analysts said. Cutting-edge but old school. Analytical, statistical and high-minded, yet traditional enough to value the direct power of coaching and the irreplaceable reach of scouting.
But would Lindsey really be the Jazz's GM? Or would Utah still quietly be run from the inside by Kevin O'Connor, the former GM and current executive vice president of basketball operations?
O'Connor swore the former, pledging allegiance to Lindsey's rising talent and vowing all day-to-day basketball-related activities would be turned over to a 43-year-old who gradually had worked his way up from a high school coach in three sports to assistant GM with San Antonio.
Lindsey said the same, stating he wouldn't have given up a lofty spot within the Spurs' system just to follow orders in Salt Lake City.
More than two months after becoming the first Jazz GM in 13 years not named O'Connor, Lindsey's initial run as Utah's primary shot-caller has exceeded expectations. While the Jazz haven't made a major transactional move, the small-market organization has added talent, securing former Austin Toros coach Brad Jones as an assistant and bringing in ex-Ute Johnnie Bryant for player development.
During training camp in early October, Utah already looked like a changed franchise. Eighteen Jazz players roamed the court, while a larger than normal collection of coaches and executives watched the product up close. After running thin for the last two seasons in anticipation of the 2011 lockout and as a result of the economic recession Utah finally resembled a modern NBA team. Moreover, the Jazz suddenly looked a lot like the Spurs.
"It's better than I imagined," Lindsey said. "Kevin's been perfect. Totally concerned for the organization. Really mindful of my integration and relationship building. We've had a lot of long nights up in the office, talking philosophy and how you handle situations, how you team-build. It's just been terrific."
Lindsey's already won one crucial battle. With the fiery O'Connor advancing in age and long ago having grown tired of the endless hassle represented by agents and the 24-7 news cycle, the cautious but energetic Lindsey has given Utah a clean slate when it comes to dealing with players' constant needs and demands. Nowhere was that better seen than in the long-delayed Raja Bell buyout, a messy situation Lindsey inherited and quickly cooled off.
The Jazz's new GM also has drawn raves within his own ranks. The Utah organization is notorious for being tight-lipped, and the Jazz are widely believed to be one of the most insular organizations in professional sports. Cracking the surface and earning trust isn't easy. But Lindsey has done just that, accomplishing the feat before the 2012-13 season even began. Jazz CEO Greg Miller, president Randy Rigby and executive vice president/CFO Bob Hyde all vouched for Lindsey, eagerly leaving Utah's future in the hands of its new day-to-day leader. As for the man who turned over the reins?
"We're excited to try to take this to another level. That's the bottom line," O'Connor said. "It just felt like the right time for me and the right time for the organization."