NBA family tree from Baltimore's Connelly brothers is growing

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at 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."

Tim Connelly did his part, too, by becoming the first of the brothers to draw a paycheck from an NBA team. While in college at Fordham in New York, Tim Connelly wrote several NBA teams looking to see whether he could do some scouting. Chuck Douglas, then director of college scouting for the Wizards, was the only one to write back.

Instead of trying to resurrect his playing career after transferring to Division III Catholic University in Washington for his junior year, Connelly worked for the Wizards when he wasn't bussing tables at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore.

"I was doing anything and everything. I was fortunate that it was a real small [scouting department] staffed by Wes Unseld and Chuck Douglas," Tim Connelly recalled. "I went to any game I could drive to. If I wasn't working, I was at a Loyola game or a Howard game or a La Salle game. Any game within two hours. I was another set of eyes."


Tim Connelly joked that he got paid under the table, as Unseld would occasionally use money from the team's "fine jar" to give him gas money. It took him three years before he was promoted to a full-time job that would include college scouting, on-court player development and even salary cap management.

"I was able to wear a lot of different hats, and I was able to work for three neat guys in Wes Unseld, Michael Jordan and Ernie Grunfeld," Tim Connelly said earlier this month before being hired by the Nuggets. "I saw three different ways of doing things."

After graduating from Mount St. Mary's and getting his master's as a graduate assistant at Baylor, Pat Connelly thought about following his father into the investment banking business. Mike Connelly worked for more than 30 years at Alex. Brown.

Instead, Pat Connelly followed Tim to the Wizards.

"The Wizards advance scout got a full-time job and it opened up a part-time spot," said Pat Connelly, who worked in scouting there with current Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "It was enough to pay the bills. Got my feet wet and the next year I was brought on full time. I had a title that was about four pages long — advance scout, college scout, basketball operations."

Dan Connelly admits that his brothers' connections to Hamilton, who coached the Wizards briefly, got him to Florida State and later helped him land as a graduate assistant at Jacksonville and Memphis. But it was his knowledge of the new technology used by NBA teams to scout opponents that got him his current gig with the Jazz.


"They flew me in and told me, 'We're going to have an expert teach our scouts the new system," Dan Connelly said. "I asked, 'Who's the expert?' They said it was me."

The second-youngest of the brothers said some have questioned his basketball pedigree along the way.

"When I'm asked, 'How do people get these jobs?' or when a player I'm working with says, 'Oh, you don't know what you're talking about, you didn't play,' I say, 'Yeah, I didn't play, but I was sitting on the sideline watching Carmelo Anthony go from a 6-foot nobody to one of the best players in the country,'" Dan Connelly said. "All the jobs I've had, I'm seeing guys get better, seeing what they're doing and not doing."

Family loved sports

Though Mike Connelly took his five sons — and two daughters — to Homewood Field for Johns Hopkins lacrosse games, to the Civic Center to see the Baltimore Skipjacks, to Camden Yards for plenty of Orioles games and to M&T Bank Stadium to root for the Ravens, basketball was the sport that seemed to cultivate the most sibling rivalry.

"Just growing up, we played a lot of two-on-two. It would be Pat and my younger brother Kevin against Tim and myself," Dan Connelly recalled. "Basketball was the easiest sport to play two-on-two, even inside my room."


Mary Ann Connelly said her husband instilled a strong work ethic into his five sons and two daughters, both of whom work for nonprofit organizations in Baltimore.

"He worked really hard, but he didn't carry on about it — he just did it," said Mary Ann Connelly, who owns an art gallery in Onancock, Va.

Mike Connelly said the highlight of his basketball career came when he made a CYO all-star team in the mid-1960s and played before a Baltimore Bullets and Cincinnati Royals game at the Civic Center, where his first jump shot was blocked.

"I think it's still floating over Howard Street," he joked.

He said he and his wife were always supportive of their sons' dreams, however unrealistic they might have seemed at times.

"They did it on their own, with their own drive and as much as Mary Ann and I would encourage them and support them," said the elder Connelly, who is now retired. "It was never a case of, 'Let me make a call and introduce you to someone who can be helpful to your career.'"


Pat Connelly said going to Towson Catholic to watch games from the earliest age "stoked the passion." But he jokes that all of the brothers gravitated toward basketball because "none of us were that great. It wasn't that big of a shadow."

Celebrating their success

But that shadow is getting bigger. Before getting hired in Denver, Tim Connelly watched as some of his closest friends in the business made the jump to general manager.

Ryan McDonough, whose father Will was a legendary Boston sports columnist and whose brother Sean is a well-known sports announcer, worked for the Boston Celtics and was hired at 31 to run the Phoenix Suns, where he immediately hired Pat. Masai Ujiri moved to Toronto and opened the door for Tim Connelly to be hired by the Nuggets.

"Those guys are some of my best friends. Definitely the last couple of years I've been unbelievably proud to see them make the jump. Certainly I would be excited about the challenge [of being a GM himself]," Tim Connelly said earlier this month. "But I think I am in my dream job right now [in New Orleans]. I have far exceeded what I thought would be a realistic expectation in this profession. It's been a very lucky run I've been on."

When Tim Connelly gets married in early August in Washington, the NBA will be well represented.


"There will be seven GMs at my wedding," said Connelly, who will now make it eight.

As the family gathered for Father's Day last weekend at the Connelly summer home on the Virginia shore, Tim Connelly called from New Orleans to say he was flying to Denver to interview for the general manager job. He was named the next day.

Joe Connelly said the family had a celebration similar to what followed the news of brother Pat's hiring by the Suns around Mother's Day. "It wasn't like we were popping champagne bottles," he said. "It was more a sense of being proud."

The road from Baltimore to the NBA got another high-profile addition.