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Sports Exec for Lynx, Timberwolves Dies of Brain Cancer

On Wednesday, Eagan resident Conrad Nilsen Smith died at the age of 56 after a three-year battle with brain cancer.

Minnesota's professional sports community is mourning the loss of Conrad Nilsen Smith, an Eagan man who was also a power player on the business side of the Minnesota Lynx.

Smith died on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 after a lengthy bout with brain cancer. His passing has been deeply felt by his colleagues.

“Simply put, Conrad is irreplaceable. I have known and worked with Conrad since 1986, and his professionalism and passion for his work is unlike anyone I’ve ever met," Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx President Chris Wright said in a statement released after Smith's death

He was born on May 16, 1956 in Massachusetts. He was raised in Woburn, MA, a quaint New England town north of Boston. After graduating from Woburn High School in 1974, he headed off to Emerson College where he was president of his fraternity and the star of the college's basketball and soccer teams.

Post-college, he found a career that suited his passion for athletics. He spent 30 years in the world of professional sports, employed by the Boston Teamen, Jacksonville Teamen, Carolina Lightning, Minnesota Strikers, Minnesota North Stars, Minnesota Twins, and Minnesota Timberwolves. In 2008, as he signed on with the Minnesota Lynx as the team's Chief Operating Officer.

"I'm thrilled to take on this exciting opportunity with the Minnesota Lynx," Smith said at the time. "We have a promising, young roster of world-class players with a very bright future. I'm looking forward to developing a business plan that continually grows our business, reaches new fans and heightens the profile of the Lynx within the Twin Cities and throughout the WNBA."

Smith's words proved to be prescient. The Lynx went on to win the championship in 2011, one of the high points of his career in sports. In a statement to the press, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx owner Glen Taylor praised Smith's professionalism, saying that his "leadership and passion that helped make the Lynx franchise a business success." However, Taylor stressed that Smith was above all a family man.

"Conrad was a tremendous husband, father and friend. Nothing meant more to Conrad than his loving family, and he always shared stories about their lives," Taylor said. "His lively personality, quick wit and everlasting smile will be missed by everyone who came in contact with him." 

According to Smith's family, he was a golf enthusiast, gardener and lover of music. He also loved to travel, especially to York, Maine where he spent his summers during childhood. Smith also dedicated time to charitable interests, specifically the Board of Directors for the Ronald McDonald House of the Twin Cities.

A wake for Smith was held on Friday at the White Funeral Home in Burnsville. His funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at the Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley. Smith will be interred during a private burial service in the First Parish Cemetery in York Village, Maine.

Donations to the National Brain Tumor Society, 124 Watertown Street, Suite 2D, Watertown, MA 02472 (www.braintumor.org) or the American Brain Tumor Association (www.ABTA.org) are preferred in lieu of flowers.

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