Eleven-year veteran Jared Jeffries could've continued playing in the NBA this upcoming season. He had two offers and was even in some discussions with his former team, the New York Knicks, as he's close with general manager Glen Grunwald, a fellow Indiana Hoosier, and assistant GM Allan Houston.
But Jeffries, 31, wanted to get an early start on his preferred post-playing career path: to follow in the footsteps of Grunwald and Houston. So this week, Jeffries accepted an entry-level pro personnel position with the Denver Nuggets. He starts on Sept. 26.
"I talk to Glen a lot, Allan, (Brooklyn Nets GM) Billy King," Jeffries told Bleacher Report. "A lot of these guys that I've talked to in the past do what I wanted to do. I really got lucky, man, to have this situation come about, instead of just waiting out for the right (playing) situation. This a chance where I can be proactive my whole life."
Jeffries said his "goal is to be the youngest former player GM ever." He has about three years to go down in the history books.
The youngest to accomplish the feat is Wayne Embry, who also was the first African-American NBA GM at 35 when he joined the Milwaukee Bucks. Rod Thorn is right behind him, as he became the GM of the Chicago Bulls at 37 in 1978. While Rick Sund was named GM of the expansion Dallas Mavericks in 1979 at 28 years old, he had not played in the league.
The rare opportunity for Jeffries opened up through his longtime friendship with Nuggets GM Tim Connelly, who, before working as an assistant GM with the New Orleans Hornets from 2010-13, was the director of player personnel for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s. That's where Jeffries started his career.
"We met when he was a rookie in D.C. I knew he always had an eye on coaching or scouting," Connelly told Bleacher Report. "I knew that after a real long career, he was intrigued when I got the job with Denver. But he still had options to play. I said, 'Just think about it. I'd love to have you part of it.'
"It's different financially, obviously, when you're doing what we do. The summer progressed and I was kind of sitting there waiting for them, and Jared rolled with it. He's excited. He's going to do a great job. He's going to have a really bright future."
Connelly discussed why a hire like Jeffries, a recently retired player, is significant to an NBA franchise.
"Calvin Booth is one of my best friends. He was in a similar role last year with myself in New Orleans—Anthony Johnson as well. They were two guys that had recently been playing and wanted to make the transition," Connelly said.
"Both of them are superstar guys and we benefited so much from them. They were so closely removed from playing that they gave a very unique perspective, both in scouting and in inner locker-room dynamics that only players know. You have that trust from the players. That perspective is very eye-opening."
In his role, Jeffries will work under Nuggets assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas, learning the ins and outs of evaluating NBA talent, as well as scouting college and European players. Karnisovas, in fact, is a former European Player of the Year, and Jeffries raved about his knowledge of the game and detailed personnel reports.
"It's good because it will give me a chance to kind of learn everything," Jeffries said. "I'll be around the team, so I'll still travel with the team, and I'll be able to do scouting. So for the first two years, it will give me a chance to kind of get a feel for everything in the front office. It's a small front office as NBA standards go, so I'm excited about it."
One of the biggest things Jeffries is excited about digging into is the analytical side of scouting.
"The evolution of the game that I've kind of seen since my rookie year is that analytics play such a big role in the NBA, so you have to be open, you have to know all this stuff," he said. "Even in my last couple of years playing, Mike D'Antoni was big into it. The first coach I had, Doug Collins, was big into it. I think that's part of the game, the evolution, and you've got to know that plays a huge, huge role now in how you evaluate players."
Quite The "Catch"
Jeffries' new position with the Nuggets could come with an added bonus.
This past summer, Jeffries, arguably the biggest fisherman in the NBA, filmed his deep-sea adventures in Panama, Cape Cod, Puerto Rico, Vanuatu in the South Pacific and where he lives in Tampa. All of his fishing was recorded for a future reality television show, which is currently in negotiations for a deal that would mark its debut in January 2014 with the Outdoor Channel or World Fishing Network.
As it turns out, the World Fishing Network is connected to the Nuggets. In 2011, Altitude Sports and Entertainment, a subsidiary of Kroenke Sports Enterprises that owns the Nuggets, acquired a 50 percent interest in WFN.
Not only does Jeffries have a business "in" with the organization, he also has the support of another avid fisherman on the team.
"(Nuggets coach) Brian Shaw is a very passionate fisherman, so those two have a lot in common," Connelly said. "Our organization owns the (World) Fishing Network, so I think Jared is going to have some cross-promotional chances."
Jeffries first fell in love with the sport through his father Tom while growing up in Bloomington, Ind. With his own rods, reels, satellite phone and regular boat captain, Josh Temple, Jeffries has traveled around the world to fish—sometimes spending hundreds of miles off shore living on a boat for weeks at a time.