Presti to Take Over Sonics

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Presti to Take Over Sonics

Postby TexasEx » Thu Jun 07, 2007 2:10 pm

Congrats to Sam. Having Durant will help tremendously. If they can resign Lewis, watch out!

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/basketbal ... onx07.html

Source: Sonics choose Presti
Expected to be introduced as GM today

By GARY WASHBURN
P-I REPORTER

The Sonics have finally decided on a general manager, agreeing to a contract with San Antonio Spurs vice president Sam Presti, who will be in Seattle on Thursday for an official announcement, a team source said.

The team scheduled a news conference for noon Thursday to introduce Presti, 30, who has been tabbed as a wunderkind. He has been promoted four times since joining the Spurs' organization in 2000 and is credited with developing a sophisticated scouting system that has been used by the Spurs the past several years.

Presti entered the competition as the prohibitive favorite but waited more than a month after the reassignment of Rick Sund to interview with Sonics owner Clay Bennett and team president Lenny Wilkens.

Wilkens and Bennett also talked with Washington Wizards vice president Tommy Sheppard, who made a splash during his interview last week in Orlando. But according to an NBA source, Bennett called Sheppard on Tuesday night to inform him of his decision to choose Presti.

Privately, Spurs officials have been anticipating losing Presti since the Sonics job opened, and club officials were so adamant about not adversely affecting Presti's chances that they refused to comment about his candidacy.

San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford, briefly rumored to be a candidate for the job when it opened, would not comment last week at the Orlando pre-draft camp, but he had already given Bennett permission to interview Presti.

The question is how Presti will work with Wilkens, who turns 70 in October. They discussed that relationship Wednesday. Presti wanted to be ensured that he would have a strong voice in constructing the roster.

In Orlando last week, many league executives pondered how much power a new general manager would have with Wilkens looming as potentially the final decision-maker. A high-ranking NBA official told one candidate from the staff of a playoff team that the situation in Seattle was a "mess."

But by having the No. 2 pick in the draft, the potential of re-signing Rashard Lewis, the presence of All-Star Ray Allen, forward Chris Wilcox and improving center Robert Swift, the Sonics have the opportunity to turn around two years of futility quickly.

The question is whether Presti will attempt to retool the Sonics in the same style as the Spurs, who are a defensive-minded team with a methodical offense because of perennial All-Star Tim Duncan. Presti was credited for pushing Buford to draft point guard Tony Parker in 2001.

Wilkens did say that he wants Presti to have a major voice in choosing the head coach. And it is uncertain whether Presti will push for Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo, who won't be able to interview until after the NBA Finals. A few weeks ago, Wilkens contacted potential candidates Dwane Casey, Jim Cleamons and Kurt Rambis and told him interviews would not begin until mid-June at the earliest.

So the trio of Presti, Wilkens and Bennett are expected to bring candidates in beginning next week. Other candidates could range from former Indiana and Detroit coach Rick Carlisle and former Sonics player and Cleveland coach Paul Silas.

And a day before the Spurs take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in quest of their fourth NBA title in nine years, Presti has decided to run an organization of his own. A graduate of Emerson College in Boston, Presti was a Rhodes scholar nominee who joined the Spurs as a summer basketball operations intern in 2000. He was twice All Northeast Athletic Conference Tournament Team.

After the $250 per month job as an intern, he was promoted to special assistant a year later; assistant director of scouting in 2002; director of player personnel in 2003; and finally VP and assistant general manager in 2005.

Presti is not the youngest general manager in league history.

That title belongs to Jerry Colangelo, who at 28 took over the expansion Phoenix Suns in 1968.
P-I reporter Gary Washburn can be reached at 206-448-8006 or garywashburn@seattlepi.com. Follow his Sonics blog at blog.seattlepi.com/sonics.
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On court or off, Presti gets charge out of job

Postby rlee » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:41 am

On court or off, Presti gets charge out of job

DAVE BOLING; THE NEWS TRIBUNE Published: June 14th, 2007 01:00 AM
New Sonics general manager Sam Presti, 30, has been a hard-working overachiever for years.


Hank Smith recalls a game that best illustrates Sam Presti’s approach to basketball.
“I’ll never forget it,” the Emerson College coach said. “In one game, he took six charges. Six. Six charges.”

The essence of taking a charge is the willingness to be run over for the greater good. It requires determination, fearlessness, and a profound obliviousness to abuse.

All those qualities will be useful for the 30-year-old Presti, who last week took over the Seattle SuperSonics as the youngest general manager in the NBA.

“I’m sure he didn’t enjoy doing it,” Smith said of Presti’s body-sacrificing defense. “But it’s what he felt was good for the team.”

Sonics owner Clay Bennett praised Presti’s work ethic, dedication and commitment last week when he announced the hiring of the former San Antonio assistant general manager.

But sometimes it’s old teammates and coaches who can fill in the more personal biographical background that doesn’t make it into press releases.

Smith, who still coaches at the NCAA Division III school in Boston, remembers Presti as an all-league swing man who could shoot, defend and “do all the things that every coach wants out of a player.”

Smith loved Presti’s use of the “language of the game,” always talking on defense, calling every pick, every switch, every facet of coverage.

“But mostly I remember Sam in practice and how hard he worked and how much of a role model he was for everybody on the team,” Smith said. “That was his true value. That and preparation. There’s nothing he’s not prepared for. No human being works as hard to prepare for what he does as that kid.”

Former teammate Alex Tse, now a successful Hollywood screenwriter, remembered the first game that Presti played at Emerson.

“We were down most of the game and we came back,” Tse said. “And Sam hit two free throws with two seconds left to win the game.”

Smith described the typical Emerson student as a motivated high-achiever, but Presti exceeded even those expectations.

“When he was at Emerson, he had an internship that called for him to work 10 hours a week … he put in 20 or 30,” Smith said. “He was a Rhodes Scholar nominee, he was recording an album, a CD, with all the proceeds going to a children’s hospital, and he was the captain of a very demanding basketball program.”

As team captain his last two seasons at Emerson, Presti sought a way to ensure his teammates’ commitment. He drew up a contract for them to sign.

“It’s a little unusual,” Smith said. “He made a contract that said if you don’t play hard, we’re throwing you off the team. He knew the way I am and that if they weren’t satisfied then I wouldn’t be either. I would have never argued with (the players’ decision).”

Remember, this is a non-scholarship program, so it was costing Presti some $40,000 a year to attend the school. And although he had enough credits to graduate, Presti returned another year – at his own expense – to exhaust his final season of eligibility.

When Presti was hired as a 23-year-old front-office intern by the Spurs, Smith was certain where he’d end up … as an NBA general manager.

“There was no other option, from the day they took him on as an intern,” Smith said. “There was no chance he wouldn’t get hired and promoted.

“He works so hard and is constantly trying to learn. When you ask him to do something, he’s probably already done it, and it’s going to be done much more thoroughly than you could imagine possible. My only question was at what age it would happen.”

When told that some had wondered whether Presti, at 30, was too young for his position, Smith laughed. “Sam was probably 30 when he was 10,” he said. “But at 30, he’s probably still got the same energy and exuberance of a 10-year-old.”

Tse remembered a game that reflected the attitude of Presti, as well as their other Emerson teammates under Smith’s coaching.

“We won our league and we went to the ECAC Tournament and ended up playing a team much better than us … Amherst,” Tse said. “They blew us out in the second half, but the way we were coached and the way we approached basketball was that you played hard all the time or you didn’t play.”

Although it was garbage time, with the outcome long determined, Presti and the others were still defending aggressively, fighting through picks and hitting the floor for loose balls.

Tse saw one of Amherst’s best players giving Presti an earful.

“The guy asked Sam why we were still playing so hard,” Tse said. “Sam told him, ‘That’s the only way we know how to play the game; that’s the only way the game should be played.’ ”

What’s that tell you about the man who now takes over the Sonics?

“That’s the exact same way he approaches his front-office work, too,” Tse said. “He is an absolute animal.”

Except now, instead of taking charges, he’s in charge.
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The genius of Sam Presti

Postby rlee » Fri May 29, 2009 6:56 pm

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Re: Presti to Take Over Sonics

Postby rlee » Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:03 pm

Gone, But Unforgettable
The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't the Seattle SuperSonics, for better or for worse.

June 11, 2012 - 8:49am | By Jeremy Repanich
TheClassical.org
http://theclassical.org/articles/gone-but-unforgettable

As the seconds ticked away, the dread slowly seeped in. The Thunder were going to win the Western Conference Finals. Really, it felt a fait accompli early in the third quarter when OKC erased an 18-point deficit with stunning ease. During the time between that surge and the final round of mid-court high-fives and trophy dandling, my Twitter feed started filling up with disbelief from fellow Seattleites. San Antonio’s three-pointers rimmed out and fell short, despite my best psychic efforts. Kendrick Perkins slammed home the points that sealed it; Kevin Durant hugged his parents with 14 seconds still on the clock. I looked down at my phone and saw I had an email from a friend, someone not prone to profanity. It read, in its entirety, “FUCK.”

There are a lot of people in Seattle who feel that this is their Western Conference title, something stolen from them as surely as was the team that won it. As someone who lived and died with, and later worked for, the Seattle SuperSonics, I understand this impulse to think that they should be the ones celebrating and Oklahomans should be waiting patiently for college football to start; we had earned this, that they hadn’t. Many of these Seattleites are, in fact, probably thinking much nastier thoughts than those about Oklahomans, and maybe in weaker moments blurting them out in bars or from couches or on the social networking platforms of their choice. However, as bitter and terrible as I felt watching Clay Bennett lift the trophy that night—does it make me a bad person that I noticed he’s got fatter, or that noticing it made me happy?—I had to remind myself that this is not the Sonics, this is not our team, this is not our trophy.

***

This Thunder franchise is, spiritually and philosophically, a spawn of the Spurs much more than it is a Sonics team in podunk exile. Clay Bennett’s entrée into sports ownership was his stake in San Antonio in the ‘90s. And when he took over the Sonics, he looked to an R.C. Buford protégé to construct his franchise. When Presti emerged from his lair on the night of the clinch to gather his riches, he wasn’t just passing his mentor and bringing some hardware to OKC, although he did do all that.

Bennett also reminded fans that without him, this wouldn’t have been possible. Which means that without Bennett, there might be no Thunder, but there would also be no Sam Presti. Sonics fans might still have their team, but that team would not be this one. It would be one consisting of Kevin Durant and whatever stiffs and terrified Euro-bigs and other misshapes and humps that Wally Walker plugged in around Durant.

I said as much on Twitter that night and some people disagreed. They said this wasn’t about Presti, it was about Durant and Presti just lucked into it. Very true, in much the same way Pop and Buford lucked into the No. 1 pick that landed them Tim Duncan. Championship teams, by and large, need generational players, which means that franchises aspiring to win championships require either some serious draft-night luck or a geographic location where the average temperature is above 72 degrees and there are beaches nearby. But LeBron and Cleveland taught us that a generational player alone isn’t enough.

Presti could have stitched together a 45-50 win team with Durant and Ray Allen. But he knew that having the 10th pick in the draft is to have not very much, and to be someplace like nowhere. It’s reductive, but not untrue, to write that teams looking to build a champion in a small market must be willing to suck and hope he ping-pong balls bouncing in their favor. Presti, to his credit, had the guts to trade Allen as his first move. He passed on re-signing Rashard Lewis (who I think old Sonics ownership would have signed) and then got a trade exemption out of it. He drafted James Harden with the third pick when many commentators thought he should have taken Stephen Curry. He wasn’t too proud to cut bait with one of his first draft picks, Jeff Green. He traded him to the Celtics for the guy whose dunk sealed the Thunder’s Western Conference championship.

And so on, and on it went one savvy and resolutely grown-up decision after another, and the team got better and better. The Thunder did all this faster than a lot of franchises, but they did familiar things. Things that, if I’m being honest, would most likely not have been done if Schultz and Walker were still running the team, if only because they were things neither ever showed any tendency or inclination towards doing during their time at the helm.

So OKC fans got to feel what I felt when the Sonics beat the Jazz back in ’96 to claim the West and I can’t begrudge them their happiness. Certainly, I’ve tried. But what did they do wrong? Sure, there were a few loudmouths who were horrible asses about the move, who didn’t think about or try to understand what had happened in Seattle before they opened their loud mouths, the better to let some ignorant-ass anti-Seattle bile escape. But, also, we were calling them inbred, backwater hicks; they had a reason to be upset. We shouldn’t have said that shit, because it’s unfair and unkind, because it made us look petty and because it was petty. All OKC fans ever did was pack their building when Hurricane Katrina made the New Orleans Hornets the OKC Hornets. They brought so much enthusiasm that the NBA had to look long and hard at bringing a franchise to that particular smaller market. As far as I know, they didn’t have to be told to “fan up” and to get in their seats at a reasonable time to spare themselves embarrassment. They embraced this team even when P.J. Carlesimo was the coach. Think about that.

So when I sat there and watched the team and the coach and the owner celebrate, something weird happened. After Clay mercifully shuffled his hammy girth out of the frame and the camera focused in on Durant talking about the team, I smiled. I caught myself and wondered why. It’s because I LIKE this team. Not the owners (let’s not even get into Aubrey McClendon’s questionable character) or the league that disingenously fast-tracked their move out of Seattle, but the guys themselves, the ones who are endlessly endearing and brilliantly fun to watch. The bitterness is difficult to stave off, though. The rational part of my brain tells me that in different circumstances I wouldn’t be celebrating a Seattle win at that moment. The emotional part of me just wishes that we Seattleites had the chance to experience it—in our town, and at a distance closer than arm’s length.
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