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The best Dennis Lindsey thought it'd ever get: high school basketball coach, maybe small college.
Lindsey would've been fine with it. He could've been a lifer. Living in gyms, breathing in sweat and competition, maximizing raw potential and constantly competing for a championship.
Sixteen years after taking a pay cut just so he could trade the title of assistant men's basketball coach at Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College for an NBA entry-level position, Lindsey was officially awarded a job Tuesday that instantly became a life-changer.
Kevin O'Connor relinquished 13 years' worth of responsibilities as the Jazz's general manager, turning Utah's day-to-day activities over to Lindsey. The well-respected and highly successful O'Connor will remain in his position as Utah's executive vice president of basketball operations, pairing with Lindsey in the attempt to finally bring an NBA championship to Salt Lake City.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported Lindsey's hire as Jazz GM and the change in O'Connor's title Monday.
Lindsey was formally introduced Tuesday during a news conference at the team practice facility. Jazz CEO Greg Miller and president Randy Rigby praised the addition, touting Lindsey's low-conflict, high-character personal nature. Jazz owner Gail Miller laughed and cried discussing O'Connor's unyielding devotion to Utah's lone major professional sports franchise.
"I have absolutely no worry that Kevin and I can put a great group together and have great chemistry," said the 43-year-old Lindsey, who spent five seasons in San Antonio as the Spurs' vice president/assistant GM and was splicing video for Houston in 1997 when John Stockton drilled a Game 6 buzzer-beater that sent the Jazz to the NBA Finals.
Lindsey added: "The nature of my relationship with the players is going to be to cultivate the group. … I'm trying to continue what Kevin and [coach Tyrone Corbin] have started with a new core."
After having his name attached to high-profile jobs with Atlanta, Minnesota, Phoenix and Toronto during recent years and being a finalist in June for Orlando's GM opening, Lindsey has suddenly become a member of the Jazz's close-knit, less-is-more front office.
O'Connor had long considered removing himself from the NBA's daily grind, but held off making the move during a lockout-compressed 2011-12 season that left little time for big-picture planning. Now, Lindsey assumes a position that first appeared within his grasp when he served as the Rockets' vice president of basketball operations and player personnel. Current Houston GM Daryl Morey assumed that title in 2007, though, and Lindsey spent the past five years adding to his resume in San Antonio.
"He's found the absolute fit with the Jazz," said Jeff Van Gundy, who coached the Rockets to 182 victories and three playoff appearances from 2003-07. "The Jazz are such a rock-solid organization. And Dennis … combines old-school, traditional scouting methods with cutting-edge analytical methods. Because he can cross into both worlds, it allows him to be very, very unique."
Lindsey was a media hit Tuesday. Confident and calm, respectful of the Jazz's legacy but promising a strong push into the future, Utah's new GM will immediately be tasked with turning a 2011-12 team that exceeded regular-season expectations into more than just a first-round playoff failure.
With as many as eight expiring contracts in hand, young standouts such as Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward still developing, and a talented but tradeable veteran core highlighted by Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, Lindsey's first GM job initially looks an NBA executive's dream.
Part of the reason Lindsey removed himself from search processes for past GM jobs was because he didn't want to settle or sell himself short. Now, Lindsey has everything from a devoted fanbase that regularly packs EnergySolutions Arena to the Miller family's vow it'll spend what's necessary to keep the Jazz competitive in the ever-changing NBA. Lindsey plans to embrace new-world statistics and analytical research, while building on the foundation laid by key longtime Jazz personnel such as Dave Fredman, Walt Perrin, Richard Smith and Scott Layden.
O'Connor had long eyed Lindsey and talks between the sides began three weeks ago. He was sold on the ex-Spur after placing a call to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. O'Connor asked the man who bounced Utah from the 2012 playoffs who would run a new NBA organization if Spurs GM R.C. Buford suddenly purchased one. Pop didn't hesitate, pointing directly at Lindsey.
"That was all I needed to hear. … We're excited to work together. 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."
Lindsey's hire deepens the link between the Jazz and Spurs, Utah's long-successful small-market counterpart. During the first round of the 2012 playoffs, Buford acknowledged he modeled his career after O'Connor's respected rise. Tuesday, the longtime Jazz GM partially turned Utah's future over to a Buford protege.
"They're two of the most trustworthy men of integrity I've ever had the pleasure of being around and working around and competing against," Buford said. "The respect that Dennis and our organization share for the Jazz and the Miller family is what was appealing to have Dennis take this final step."
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Dennis Lindsey file
Position • Jazz general manager
Age • 43
Career • San Antonio vice president/assistant GM (2007-12), Houston vice president of basketball operations and player personnel (2002-07)
NBA start • Rockets video coordinator/scout in 1996
Pre-NBA • Assistant coach at Fort Worth Southwest High School and Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College
Playing career • Baylor (1988-92)
Family • Wife, Becky. Four children (Jacob, Matthew, Meredith, Jessica Claire).
Born • Freeport, Texas
Changing of the guard
Kevin O'Connor relinquished his role as Jazz general manager on Monday, while Utah hired former San Antonio vice president/assistant GM Dennis Lindsey for the position.
O'Connor will remain as the Jazz's executive VP of basketball operations and oversee all big-picture aspects of the organization.