Houston • Dennis Lindsey and his sister sold the old house when his father died four years ago. He happened to be in the neighborhood Monday.
Dennis and his wife, Becky Lindsey, took the drive south down Route 288, 30 minutes to where Dennis’ grandmother lives in a nursing home in South Houston, and they drove by the house in Clute, Texas, where he was born and raised.
The outside of the place has a new coat of paint, and the trees have been trimmed — by his admission, it looks nicer than when he lived there. But something of the Lindseys remains, affixed by the two-car garage: a basketball hoop.
His father wanted to make sure Dennis and his sister never could rip it down. It’s been bolted in place going on four decades.
“Armageddon will come, and this basketball goal will still be standing,” Lindsey said. “I still have neighbors that I kept up late at night by dribbling the ball.”
Dennis Lindsey, who is wrapping up his sixth season as the general manager of the Utah Jazz, is well-settled into Salt Lake City. But there’s a piece of him planted in Houston — as firmly as that hoop.
He was born in Freeport, a small town flung 60 miles south of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico coast. He floated closer to Houston through incremental moves inland as time went on. He got his first NBA job there with the Rockets, where he worked for 11 years.
Houston is where he made his name as a young, ambitious front-office man, and it’s where Becky Lindsey had all four of their children, at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. The greater metropolitan area is flocked with family members — too many for Dennis to count.
He ate a pastrami sandwich on Monday afternoon at a Lake Jackson restaurant called The Local. Aside from his visor bearing the Jazz note, Lindsey easily could be mistaken as the namesake.
Somewhere in a box in his basement is evidence of his high school playing career at Brazoswood High School, where Lindsey earned a scholarship to play at Baylor, where his son Jake now plays. He thinks he last watched the video five years ago, in part to prove a point to his sons that their dad had game back when he was their age. It was true: Dennis Lindsey was a good player. But he came to regret digging up the footage.
“It was such an ugly era of hair and short-shorts,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to watch. The shorts may be coming back, but I don’t think the mullet is.”
TEXAS BORN AND BRED
Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey has strong Texas roots that have greatly shaped his career in basketball:
• Born in Freeport, Texas, and attended Brazoswood High in Clute, Texas.
• Attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he was a guard on the basketball team and graduated in 1992.
• Hired by the Houston Rockets in 1996, where he rose to vice president of basketball operations and player personnel.
• Served as vice president and assistant general manager for the San Antonio Spurs from 2007 to 2012 before being hired by the Jazz.
Something that won’t be as obvious on the tape: At each of his home games up until he graduated in 1987, Lindsey had a cheering section that included 10 to 12 kids of different ages, races and backgrounds whom his parents were watching. They had no obvious connection, except that they were cheering for him.
Besides raising him and his sister, Dennis’ parents fostered children and served three stints in Brazoria County Youth Home in nearby Oyster Creek. At the Youth Home, the Lindseys were the designated “parents” of up to a dozen children at a time, and Dennis lived with them, opening his eyes to what it meant to serve kids in need.
Many of the children found it difficult to shake themselves free of desperation in the youth home. Dennis saw some of them grab food off the table at family dinners and hoard it away, driven by instincts they had formed when they were rooting through dumpsters to eat.
“You realize that the kids aren’t being rude — they’re trying to survive,” he said. “It’s been ingrained into their nervous systems.”
Since he also lived in the youth home, Lindsey was labeled as a “youth home” kid by other students in his school. That led to schoolyard scuffles, and Lindsey said he and the youth home kids became fiercely protective of one another. He still keeps in touch with several to this day.
The home had many happy memories, too. United Way was a sponsor, so the kids had access to a gym, a baseball field and other outdoor activities on campus. Each child had a personal counselor. Lindsey loved to see the piles of presents around the holidays waiting in a back room, destined to go to a child who may not have gotten a Christmas gift before.
“It was a true haven,” Lindsey said. “The house parents tried to make it a home.”
He credits the experience for helping him break barriers with people of different racial and cultural backgrounds. Not many white boys growing up in small Texas towns had the opportunity to negotiate relationships with as many kinds of people as he did, and he believes it gave him a clear-eyed ability to see past stereotypes and quickly earn good faith when he meets new people, which are tools he’s used as an evaluator in the NBA.
It also taught him that he has a responsibility to help others. When Lindsey was in high school, he would feel embarrassed when his parents showed up with a huge crowd of children. He asked himself: Why can’t we just be a normal family?
But even then he understood how much good his parents were doing and recognized it was the right thing to do. And while his parents since have died, he and his family have tried to keep the values that were threaded into his upbringing.
The Lindseys support a number of causes. They give back to homeless and women’s shelters in Salt Lake City. They’ve made sandwiches for underprivileged children during the summer when they don’t receive school lunch. Becky Lindsey has spearheaded a program that offers tickets to Jazz games for teachers, which has brought an estimated 6,000 fans through Vivint Smart Home Arena.
But while the Lindseys have settled into the Salt Lake City community, they’ve also dealt with heartbreak back in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Dealing with storms has been branded in Lindsey’s blood as well. Warm air streams in the Gulf of Mexico flow directly through Houston, and storms have a tendency to linger over the city. The Lindseys always were quick to leave town if a hurricane was coming and drive upstate until it passed.
When he was an executive for the Rockets, he and then-GM Carroll Dawson once were trapped in a Houston airport, surrounded by flooding. Lindsey witnessed firsthand people ransacking the airport’s businesses for food and water — much like the kids he had seen at the youth home.
Those memories leapt to mind when he saw Harvey sweep through in August last year.
Lindsey described feeling “helpless” as he called relatives and family, checking to see who was safe and who still had homes. His old neighborhood in West Houston, where he lived when he worked for the Rockets, had been flooded when the city released overstressed dams. Chuck Hayes, who played for the Rockets when Lindsey worked there, had his house hit by tornadoes, which were common in Harvey’s wake.
Even this week, during Utah’s series with the Rockets, a bus driver pointed out areas to Lindsey where homes still are flooded nine months later.
“People forget: There’s this mad rush of love and concern right away,” he said. “A few weeks after, things dissipate.”
Lindsey has not forgotten. The family donated to “a few crucial organizations” to help relief efforts in Houston, and he’s stayed in touch with family and tried to help them. This offseason probably will see him in Houston again, supporting a community where Lindsey grew his own firmly rooted values.
The Brazoria County Youth Home still exists, too, even though its ownership and mission have changed. It’s been years since he lived there, but Lindsey keeps what it meant to him often in his thoughts.
“If we can’t run a youth home shelter,” he said, “maybe there’s a few other small things we can do for the community.”
UTAH JAZZ AT HOUSTON ROCKETS
Where • Toyota Center, Houston
Tipoff • 6 p.m. MDT Wednesday
TV • TNT
Radio • 97.5 FM/1280 AM
Series • Rockets lead 1-0
Last meeting • Rockets won 110-96 (Sunday)
About the Jazz • Utah is expected to be without Ricky Rubio, who was sidelined for Game 1 with a left hamstring injury and could miss the series. … The Jazz have lost three straight Game 1s since winning the opening game of the 2017 postseason against the Los Angeles Clippers. … Donovan Mitchell is averaging 27.4 points per game as a rookie, which ranks fifth in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan and Michael Jordan.
About the Rockets • James Harden scored 41 points in Game 1 against the Jazz, which was the second time the Houston star has eclipsed 40 points in his six playoff games this season. … The Rockets only attempted 32 3-pointers against the Jazz, which is the fewest they’ve attempted in a playoff game so far. … Chris Paul is looking to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time in his 13-year career.