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Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey is 'Most Influential' in Utah sports

Published August 12, 2013 12:59 pm

Jazz GM Lindsey's audacious rebuilding plan puts him on top.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In his own basketball career, Dennis Lindsey lacked anything resembling the skills of the players he now evaluates. That history works in his favor as the Jazz's general manager.

"I always had to grind my way and delay gratification and really work hard," Lindsey said. "Being patient is something that's a natural strength."

The Jazz's ownership is trusting Lindsey's long-term view to a degree that merits his No. 1 position in The Salt Lake Tribune's annual ranking of the 25 Most Influential People in Utah Sports.

That status comes almost a year to the day since Kevin O'Connor moved to a executive role and the Jazz hired Lindsey away from the San Antonio Spurs to fill his GM position. Lindsey cites the mentoring of O'Connor, CEO Greg Miller and others as vital to his growth in the job. His level of responsibility and impact on the team's roster have become greater than just about anyone could have imagined as of last August.

Lindsey is the first pro sports figure below the ownership level to receive the No. 1 ranking in the nine years of The Tribune's evaluations, but the list was trending in that direction. O'Connor was ranked No. 2 last year, and Lindsey largely inherited O'Connor's level of influence.

Lindsey emphasizes that the process is collaborative, but he recognizes he's in a position of trust. Miller recently said he's willing to "endure a little bit of pain" in building something to last, and Lindsey embraces the franchise's approach.

"It would almost be wrong to come in and be short-sighted," he said.

So Lindsey intends to rely on the development of young players such as Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. He allowed veterans Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams to depart via free agency, while acquiring three players from Golden State with expiring contracts in 2014 and positioning the Jazz to have financial flexibility and keep building through the draft.

The rest of Utah's most influential sports figures:

No. 2 Bronco Mendenhall

BYU football coach

Previous ranking • No. 3

As the Cougars prepare to play one of the toughest schedules in school history, Mendenhall has recommitted himself to the job with a contract through 2016. He completely overhauled his offensive coaching staff after an 8-5 season, bringing back Robert Anae as the coordinator. Mendenhall remains in charge of game-day schemes for a defense that ranked No. 3 in the country last season. The progress of the offense will determine how he's ultimately viewed as a head coach, as he attempts to build on a 74-29 record through eight seasons.

No. 3 Kyle Whittingham

Utah football coach

Previous ranking • No. 1

Whittingham endured Utah's first losing season (5-7) since 2002 and responded by hiring veteran coach Dennis Erickson as co-offensive coordinator. Erickson's performance will determine the future of Whittingham's program. The school supported by building a $32 million football center in hopes of competing favorably in the Pac-12, where Utah's two-year record is 7-11. Fan interest remains high, with season-ticket renewals of 98 percent. Whittingham, whose record is 71-32, is under contract through 2016 with a $2 million annual salary that's about average for Pac-12 coaches.

No. 4 Scott Barnes

Utah State athletic director

Previous ranking • No. 10

Having positioned USU for Mountain West membership, Barnes continues to make an impact with facilities, budgets and program growth. He's the first Aggie athletic director to become a national figure, preparing to chair the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee in 2014-15. Barnes has succeeded in widening USU's support base beyond longtime donor Jim Laub's contributions, facilitating construction of a weight-training complex and a facility for basketball practice and volleyball competition. Barnes responded to the loss of football coach Gary Andersen by promoting offensive coordinator Matt Wells, who's expected to keep the resurgent program at a high level.

No. 5 Dell Loy Hansen

Real Salt Lake owner

Previous ranking • NR

About three years after becoming a part-owner of RSL (just in time for the team's MLS Cup championship run in 2009), Hansen exercised to his power to assume full ownership. The impact of his move includes the departure from the Utah sports market of former majority owner Dave Checketts, who once ranked No. 1 on this list. Hansen, a successful property owner and manager, operates one of the most stable, consistent franchises in Major League Soccer and is committed to expanding RSL's presence in the Salt Lake Valley and beyond.

No. 6 Tom Holmoe

BYU athletic director

Previous ranking • No. 4

BYU is now entrenched in football independence and Holmoe's scheduling efforts have become a major factor in making that transition work. After piecing things together for the first two years, he has created a much more attractive home schedule in 2013 and succeeded in strengthening future November schedules with opponents such as USC and Utah. He also signed coach Bronco Mendenhall through 2016. The Cougars produced outstanding teams in women's soccer and men's volleyball in 2012-13, while Holmoe consolidated the men's and women's track and field programs.

No. 7

Gail, Greg and Steve Miller

LHM Sports & Entertainment

Previous ranking • No. 9.

As a family, the Millers have taken more control of the sports aspect of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies by making Steve - Gail's son and Greg's younger brother - the president of that division. Randy Rigby's duties now strictly involve the Jazz. Steve Miller has established himself in the company by operating the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, a top-tier cycling event that concludes this weekend in Park City. Greg Miller, the company CEO, is responsible for much more than the sports segment.

No. 8

Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors

Jazz players

Previous ranking • NR

Jazz management is essentially turning over the 2013-14 season to these fourth-year players, giving them every opportunity to assert themselves, while evaluating them as potential franchise cornerstones. Hayward, who's a year older, is being asked to show leadership and Favors is expected to fill much of the scoring and rebounding voids left by departed free agents Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. How they respond will determine not only the Jazz's long-term outlook, but their own positions in the NBA's power structure as they try to reach the All-Star level.

No. 9 Jason Kreis

Real Salt Lake coach

Previous ranking • No. 15.

After a restructuring of the roster that was mandated by the salary cap, Kreis needed to make more impact as a coach this season and he has responded well. Injuries, suspensions and international team call-ups have disrupted the lineup and RSL also lost twice in the late stages of games in July. Yet the team shared Major League Soccer's best record (11-7-5) with New York, going into Saturday's game vs. Houston, evidence that Kreis is doing the best work of his coaching career. RSL also will play in the U.S. Open Cup final.

No. 10 Tyrone Corbin

Jazz coach

Previous ranking • No. 14.

In contrast to last season's mixed mission, Corbin's charge in 2013-14 clearly focuses on developing a young team. Unusual circumstances, from suddenly replacing Jerry Sloan in February 2011 to a lockout-shortened schedule to trying to accommodate key players with expiring contracts, have complicated Corbin's job - and the evaluation of him. The scrutiny of Corbin will intensify this season, with Jazz CEO Greg Miller saying, "We all know there's weaknesses in his game … and we don't want him to get too comfortable." Corbin's record is 87-89.

No. 11 Chris Hill

Utah athletic director

Previous ranking: No. 6.

Having his position unaffected by an investigation into his supervision of a former swimming coach illustrates Hill's status on the Utah campus. But the perception of him undoubtedly was altered by the report, citing his failure to respond adequately to various incidents involving Greg Winslow. Hill's legacy was largely secured when the school joined the Pac-12, but Utah needs to compete at a higher level in the league, particularly in football and men's basketball. The judgment of Hill now hinges on those programs' progress and the outcome of a $150 million capital campaign.

No. 12 Jeff Robbins

Utah Sports Commission CEO

Previous ranking • No. 13.

After losing a highly successful Dew Tour stop in 2012, Robbins has made a comeback. The U.S. Men's National Team came to Sandy for two competitive soccer games this summer and the Web.com Tour's Utah Championship, with the Utah Sports Commission as the presenting sponsor, increased its purse to $625,000 after formerly hovering around the tour's minimum level. Robbins' partnership with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has brought major events to Utah and the organization has aided in the growth of the Tour of Utah.

No. 13 Ted Ligety

Ski racer

Previous ranking • NR

Ligety consistently has contributed to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's influence, but his 2013 World Cup performance demanded his own distinction. The Park City product won three gold medals in the World Championships at Schladming, Austria, becoming the first skier to do so since Jean Claude Killy in 1968. He claimed the World Cup season title in the giant slalom and finished third overall, establishing himself as a skier to watch in his third Olympics, the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. Ligety, 28, has worked hard to become more than a slalom specialist.

No. 14 Bill Manning

Real Salt Lake president

Previous ranking: No. 18.

In January, Manning was named the 2012 Major League Soccer Executive of the Year, recognizing the team's success in ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and local television ratings. The team also received three ticketing awards, presented by the league commissioner. RSL is playing to 93.2 percent of capacity in league games at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the U.S. Men's National Team played twice this summer This year's higher rankings for Manning and coach Jason Kreis are also a tribute to the work of general manager Garth Lagerwey, another a key player in the franchise's stability.

No. 15 Quincy Lewis

Lone Peak basketball coach

Previous ranking: NR

Lone Peak became a national phenomenon, touring the country in a series of showcase games and dominating Utah high school competition with possibly the best team in state history. The Knights went 26-1, earning a No. 1 national ranking from MaxPreps.com, and Lewis was named the Naismith national boys basketball coach of the year. Lewis has won six state championships in eight years. Nick Emery, Eric Mika and TJ Haws led the celebrated 2012-13 team that Lewis credited as being "really talented" and "unselfish." That reflects good coaching.

No. 16 Sarah Hendrickson

Ski jumper

Previous ranking • No. 17

Knee surgery kept her out of competition for more than six months, but Hendrickson returned to win her event in the World Ski Championships in February at Val di Flemme, Italy, and declared herself "beyond satisfied" with the achievement. She finished second in the World Cup standings. Hendrickson, 19, a graduate of Park City's Winter Sports School, will benefit from the efforts of women's ski jumping advocates as the favorite to win the first Olympic gold medal in the event at Sochi, Russia, in February. She's a daughter and sister of ski jumpers.

No. 17 Mike Williams

USU athletic trainer

Previous ranking: NR

Credited with saving the life of Utah State basketball player Danny Berger, Williams raised the profile of his profession and created awareness of the need for automated external defibrillators in athletic facilities. Williams, since promoted to head trainer following Dale Mildenberger's retirement, was praised for responding quickly and calmly when Berger collapsed during practice. Other Utah sports figures - including Utah Blaze receiver Aaron Lesue, Salt Lake Community College softball player Megan Bradshaw and Orem High football coach Tyler Anderson - also provided vital rescue assistance this year.

No. 18 Bill Marolt

U.S. Ski and Snowboard

Previous ranking • 16

As the CEO of the Park City-based USSA, Marolt falls in this year's rankings mainly because Ted Ligety's outstanding showing merited individual recognition. Of course, those efforts reflect well on Marolt's organization, entering a Winter Olympics year. Training provided at the USSA's Center of Excellence is having worldwide impact. The U.S. ski team performed particularly well in Alpine competition, with Ligety, Mikaela Shiffrin and Julia Mancuso winning five medals in the World Championships. Marolt's partnership with the Utah Sports Commission helped bring more winter events to the state.

No. 19 Rob Cuff

UHSAA executive director

Previous ranking • No. 20

The job of administering competition among more than 140 member schools and 85,000 students is more difficult than ever for the Utah High School Activities Association. With the board of trustees and other committees, Cuff was involved in some high-profile, controversial cases - notably, involving eligibility issues with Timpview and East that resulted in forfeitures and radically altered the Class 4A football playoff bracket. Such transfer cases have become a major part of the association's responsibilities. This year, the UHSAA will oversee a sixth classification in football.

No. 20 Paul Kruger

Cleveland Browns linebacker

Previous ranking • NR

Kruger and former Baltimore Ravens teammate Haloti Ngata became the fifth and sixth Utah high school products to play for the Super Bowl champions. Kruger made a big impact with two sacks on third-down plays, each time forcing San Francisco to settle for a field goal in a 34-31 win. He was rewarded with a five-year, $40 million contract by Cleveland. In June, Kruger's charitable foundation staged a free leadership seminar in Orem, attracting youth from more than 100 schools throughout Utah as "a bigger way to influence kids beyond football," he said.

No. 21 Dave Rose

BYU basketball coach

Previous ranking • No. 11

Rose's run of six NCAA Tournament appearances ended in March, but he responded by taking the Cougars to the NIT semifinals. Some good coaching is being done at BYU, with Jennifer Rockwood (women's soccer) and Chris McGown (men's volleyball) making national impact, but Rose's consistency and in-state recruiting ability continue to distinguish him. Eventually, he'll have the stars of the 2012-13 Lone Peak team in his program. Rose drops in the rankings because BYU's 10-6 record in the West Coast Conference was the worst league mark of his tenure.

No. 22 Kaycee Feild

Rodeo world champion

Previous ranking • No. 23

The Payson resident won his second consecutive world championship gold buckle in bareback riding by earning more than $135,000 in the National Finals Rodeo at Las Vegas, finishing the season with $276,860. Feild remains the favorite to win another title in December, although his 2013 earnings of $79,461 left him slightly behind Ryan Gray in the PRCA standings as of early August. Saddle bronc riders Cody and Jesse Wright of Milford rank second and third in their event, so Utah again will be well represented in the NFR.

No. 23 Greg and Megan Marsden

Utah gymnastics co-coaches

Previous ranking • No. 22.

Partly because of inexperience and injuries, Utah's program regressed in 2013. The Utes finished ninth in the NCAA meet, failing to reach the Super Six finals for the first time since 1999, and never were ranked higher than No. 6 during the season. Yet they continue to be a marketing success story. The Utes' average attendance of 14,439 included a crowd of 14,930 that witnessed Utah's upset of No. 2 Florida. Utah gymnastics led all women's sports teams nationally in average attendance for the third time in four years.

No. 24 Larry Krystkowiak

Utah basketball coach

Previous ranking • NR

The current standards are low for Utah basketball, but Krystkowiak is demonstrating enough progress to make his program worth watching. The Utes went from 6-25 overall to 15-18 in his second season, while producing a strong finish that inspired some hope for the future. The Utes beat Oregon in their last regular-season game and then defeated USC and California to reach the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. Krystkowiak is making a recruiting impact in Utah, with a recent commitment from Roy's Brekkott Chapman, and has improved the Utes' defense considerably.

No. 25 Gary Andersen

Wisconsin football coach

Previous ranking • NR

Andersen would have ranked much higher if he had stayed at Utah State, but he makes the top 25 because of the residual effect of his work in Logan and his continued recruiting efforts in Utah. Wisconsin has commitments from Jordan quarterback Austin Kafentzis and East running back Ula Tolutau. Andersen's success at USU, with an 11-2 record in 2012, enabled offensive coordinator Matt Wells to be promoted. Andersen departed with a 26-24 mark in four seasons, the first overall winning record for an Aggie coach in nearly 40 years. —

Who do you think powers Utah sports?

Did we get it right? Is Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey the most influential person in Utah Sports? Express yourself by voting in our informal poll at http://choiceawards.sltrib.com/polls/view/6. You may choose from the alphabetized list or write in your own candidate.






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