NBA family tree from Baltimore's Connelly brothers is growing

Four brothers from Roland Park work for franchises, two as executives

June 22, 2013|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

The path from Baltimore to the National Basketball Association is dotted with big names and busts, with perennial All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony, heartwarming reclamation projects like Gary Neal and whatever-happened-to former first-round draft picks like Josh Boone.

But in the decade since Anthony was drafted behind a legend-in-the-making named LeBron James and the long-forgotten Darko Milicic, an argument can be made that no single family has made a bigger impact in the NBA than the Connelly brothers.

Ever heard of them?

It's doubtful, since Joe Connelly and his four younger siblings never played a second in the NBA. Heck, none of the five brothers from Roland Park made it past the Towson Catholic varsity when it came to their own playing careers and, with the exception of second-oldest Tim, rarely made it onto the court in high school.

But here they are, a few days before the 2013 NBA draft, spread across the country, four of the Connellys working for four NBA franchises.

Tim Connelly, 36, was named last Monday as the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets after spending the previous three years as assistant general manager of the recently renamed New Orleans Pelicans. Connelly started out 16 years ago as an unpaid intern for the Washington Wizards while still in college.

Pat Connelly, 32, was hired last month as assistant general manager of the Phoenix Suns after taking the same route as his brother, working his way up from being an unpaid intern in Washington to following Tim as director of player personnel with the Wizards. His first job offer in basketball was helping coach the Brighton Bears in England's professional league.

Joe Connelly, 41, has worked the past two seasons for Washington in player development after Pat introduced him to former Wizards guard Roger Mason Jr. The oldest of the Connelly brothers coached under former Towson Catholic head coach Mike Daniel while teaching 12 years in the Baltimore City school system.

Dan Connelly, 29, who was a junior varsity teammate of Anthony's at Towson Catholic on a team that shockingly won only one game, was "the best manager" Daniel said he ever had. After working for four years as a team manager for Leonard Hamilton at Florida State, Dan Connelly is now an advance scout for the Utah Jazz and trains a number of NBA players, including former Maryland star Greivis Vasquez, now with the Pelicans.

The youngest brother, Kevin, 26, followed their father, Mike, into the financial world, but was recently approved by the NCAA to start his own scouting service for high school players.

"What are the odds of something like that happening?" Joe Connelly said recently. "It's not like we sat down 20 years ago and mapped out a course. It kind of just fell together. It's just what we were taught by our parents. Work hard and be good guys. Not try to outslick anybody."

Said Daniel, now the coach at New Town High: "It's unbelievable that nobody has ever written a story about the Connelly brothers of Baltimore. Their story is worthy of being told in Sports Illustrated or on ESPN. It's a great story."

Daniel, who has stayed in touch with the family, said he is not surprised by the brothers' success.

"When I opened the door, they were in the gym, and if there was anybody in there with me, it was one of the Connellys," said Daniel, who coached all five brothers at Towson Catholic before leaving for City. "They knew everything about the game — offenses, defenses, strength and conditioning. They were the ultimate gym rats."

Daniel said Joe Connelly was "probably the best assistant coach I've ever had so far" and credits him with helping develop Anthony into the player he became.

"When things got tough, Joe got tough and he was the perfect guy for it," Daniel said recently. "Joe was more effective off the basketball floor, in the classroom. He just had that way of getting through to kids."

Coaching Carmelo

Mike Connelly said his oldest son had an eye for talent, as evidenced by a conversation they had one day more than 15 years ago.

"Joe came back one time and said, 'Dad, I'm working with a kid who's in the seventh or eighth grade and he's going to be a pro,'" the elder Connelly recalled last week. "I don't know how you are with your kids, but I kind of scoffed at it and said, 'How would you know he's going to be a pro?' If it wasn't Carmelo. As usual, he was right and I was wrong."

Dan Connelly credits his oldest brother with the others getting involved in basketball after their playing days — however brief and unspectacular — were over.

"I think the reason we're all working in basketball is because of Joe," Dan Connelly said last week. "He kind of set the precedent and got us in the door. ... If Joe didn't start coaching in the city of Baltimore, I don't think any of us would be doing what we're doing today."

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