Friday’s announcement that the Jazz were promoting Dennis Lindsey to executive vice president of basketball operations and Justin Zanik to general manager spurred the idea among some that significant change was perhaps on the way.
On Saturday, at the team’s Zions Bank Basketball Campus practice facility, Zanik insisted that was not really the case.
“It's not about me,” he told a small group of assembled media. “This is about the organization and the group, and, you know, we have a very collaborative process here that involves all aspects of the organization when we have decisions that come up.”
Zanik began his career in basketball as a player agent, first with Priority Sports and Entertainment, then with ASM Sports. He joined the Jazz in 2013 as an assistant general manager, and, aside from spending the 2016-17 season in the same capacity with the Milwaukee Bucks, has been filling that role with the Jazz ever since.
The dual promotions, he said, do reflect change to a certain degree, but that is more reflective of the way the league continues to grow than of any need for institutional shake-up in Utah.
“I think it's more of a continuation of the evolution of an NBA organization,” Zanik said. “The league has become a huge property worldwide; the duties and responsibilities of running a billion-dollar-plus-valuation organization, those responsibilities become more varied and more extensive.”
As for how those responsibilities will change now, if at all, remains to be seen.
Still, becoming the team’s official general manager represents a career achievement for Zanik.
When he left the Jazz for the Bucks, it was with the understanding that he would soon succeed then-Milwaukee GM John Hammond. However, when the team’s ownership situation changed, and the three controlling partners found themselves in disagreement over the franchise’s future, a front-office mess ensued in the summer of 2017, and the organizational plan of succession was scrapped. Hammond departed, Zanik was passed over, and Jon Horst — then a relative unknown who did not even believe himself to be a candidate — was promoted.
That led to Zanik’s return to the Jazz — a move he now sees as fortuitous.
“To operate within a group that's something that's bigger than yourself … is something my family and I had always craved,” he said. “And to have that be able to happen here in Utah with the state, the community, the Millers, being in a values-based organization — we've fallen in love with this group, and [are] excited to be here.”
Zanik said his years as an agent and within the Jazz’s front office have given him negotiating experience, a wide network of contacts throughout the league, and the relationships he’s built in that time will all be instrumental as the team’s braintrust continues its work to take the Jazz to the next level.
“Every offseason requires reflection on the previous seasons, where we stand within the landscape of the NBA, and what are the avenues and where are the places that we can continue to do it. Our only goal here is to continue to move forward, and put the most competitive [team out there], and continue on this path,” Zanik said. “We have critical decisions that will be coming up; we’ll be doing them as a group. The motivation comes from competition, right? Within the NBA. We want to compete. We want to be the last team standing at the end of the day.”