Mark Warkentein, who won the NBA’s Executive of the Year Award in the 2008-09 season as the architect of the Denver Nuggets team that went 54-28 and reached the Western Conference Finals, has passed away.

The Nuggets announced the news on Friday night, via Twitter.

“The Denver Nuggets organization is saddened to learn of the passing of former Executive of the Year Mark Warkentein. Our thoughts and condolences are with his loved ones.”

The NBA world paid tribute to Warkentein as news of his passing broke.

Former player and current analyst Rex Chapman tweeted that Warkentein was “An incredible basketball person. A lifer. Loved it. My thoughts are with wife Mo and their girls. Everyone in bball knew Mark Warkentien. A vital part of the UNLV Runnin Rebels success with Tark in the 90’s. Stories for days. And we had a good run together in Denver. RIP, Mark.”

That sentiment was shared by others.

Former NBA player, James White: “Mannnn Mark really helped me. They say all it take is one guy in the league to like you. Mark was that guy for me. Brought me into Denver and got me to NY. Rest In Peace Mark.”

Danny Marang, Radio host on 1080 The Fan in Portland:

“Oh no… noooooo. Man, Mark was such a kind man to me. He was the first NBA exec I ever met that gave me a second. He introduced me to so many people and always made time for me anytime I asked. Always willing to “take a lunch” and talk hoop/tell stories. RIP Mark.”

Sean Highkin, Rose Garden Report: “Very sad. Former Blazers executive as well. In recent years worked as a scout for the Thunder. I’d be seated next to him at games from time to time pre-covid. Nice guy.”

David Aldridge, the Athletic: “Oh, no. Mark was such an incredible presence, basketball lifer and sounding board about the game and the people in it. This is terrible. RIP to him and condolences to his family.”

Doug Gottlieb, Fox Sports Radio: “Tragic. Mark was an incredible guy, part of the UNLV machine in the 80s/90s – built the Trailblazers who were awesome (couldn’t beat the Lakers) – this is so sad”

Warkentein was the Assistant Athletic Director for UNLV when the Runnin’ Rebels won the NCAA Championship in 1990. In 1991, he started his long NBA career as a scout with the Seattle SuperSonics.

In 1994, he was hired as Director of Scouting for the Portland Trail Blazers and remained with that organization for 10 years. In 1998, he became Portland’s Assistant General Manager. In 2003, he was named as Director of Player Personnel. Then, After working with the Cleveland Cavaliers as Director of Player Personnel and later as Interim General Manager for one season, he moved onto Denver.

With the Nuggets, Warkentein had his greatest success. He was the Director of Player Personnel for the 2005-06 season, then became Vice President of Basketball Operations, a role he had through the 2009-10 season. In Warkentein’s five seasons in Denver, the Nuggets made the playoffs every year, won 50 or more games three times and reached the Western Conference Finals once. Warkentein won the NBA’s Executive of the Year Award in that 2008-09 season.

Warkentein later briefly served as a consultant for the Houston Rockets before becoming Director of Player Personnel for the New York Knicks in February, 2011, shortly before they acquired Carmelo Anthony from Denver.

According to his LinkedIn page, Warkentein was working as a Special Assignment Evaluator for the Oklahoma City Thunder at the time of his passing.

[Mark Warkentein LinkedIn, Photo Credit: Denver Nuggets on Twitter]

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