Sam Presti, the second-year general manager for Oklahoma City’s new NBA team, met the media on Thursday afternoon. In his 30-minute press conference, Presti talked about the challenges of relocation, his expectations for next season, coach P.J. Carlesimo’s philosophy, and attracting free agents to a small market.
Q: Is your job as general manager going to be more difficult because of the transition?
A: I wouldn’t say that it’s more difficult. I think there’s probably going to be some inherent challenges initially. But those are things that we’re ready to take on, and we have a staff of people that are working tirelessly to make the transition for our team as efficient as possible. But our focus has to maintain on continuing to make good decisions and building this team with the vision and identity that was set out.
Q: Have you started touring the city in search of a temporary practice facility, and what are you looking for out of a site?
A: We’ve taken a couple of looks. We’re looking at several different options. Essentially, what we’re looking for is a place that’s going to be our home. We really feel like that’s important to our program, especially because development is a huge component to our team and our growth.
Q: Do you have a timeline for finding a place?
A: The timeline for that will be when we find a place that we feel like is the right spot for us. We don’t want to make a quick or rash decision because it is a big decision for us and there’s a lot of options.
Q: What kinds of questions are the players asking about Oklahoma City? Are you having to battle any stereotypes?
A: I think this is the great thing about our players and everyone will have a chance to learn this, a lot of guys want to know are the baskets 10 feet? Do the balls have air in it? I think we’ve been fortunate enough to find players that want to play. Surely anytime that there’s a transition there’s going to be different questions. That’s part of our job to try to make the transition as easy as possible for our players and their families.
Q: Will this city’s small market size put the franchise at a disadvantage to attract large-name free agents?
A: With market size you can look at the history of the league. There’s been successful teams in smaller markets. Each market is different and unique, and we’re still obviously in the very early stages of learning this market. But our plan and our vision is to build the best team that we can. And our market size is not something that we come in thinking about. We come in thinking about how to put the best basketball team together for the long term to fulfill the plan that we have in place.
Q: When GMs are mentioned around the league, their age generally is not brought up. When your name is mentioned usually it’s followed by a comma and 31. Would you comment on that?
A: My birthday is a little bit of a topic. At some point it won’t be. But it’s never really been an issue for me. I think that the places that I’ve been and the people that I work with it’s never been an issue. It’s usually something that precedes me but doesn’t really stay with me very long. My job is to make the best decisions that I can for the organization, and that’s the way that I approach it every day. My age doesn’t really factor into that.
Q: Is the current roster one fans can expect to see come November?
A: There’s always a possibility that something can happen in the NBA. That’s part of the business. But going forward, we feel like we made some additions through the draft that are going to help bolster us in some areas of need and added some players that we feel like are good fits for us long term. At the same time we are a team that has to get better, so we are a team that’s going to explore those avenues. And if something pops up that we feel like will improve our team then we won’t hesitate to make a decision on that.
Q: As far as wins and losses go, what are your expectations for this team next year?
A: Continuing to improve. Get better defensively. Allowing our guys to grow together, to continue to compete and develop. I wouldn’t necessarily (say) a win total or a benchmark. I don’t think many people in my position would do that other than to say philosophically for our team, our focus is on chipping away every day.
Q: Would you talk about P.J.’s coaching style and his expectations?
A: P.J.’s a teacher of the game, and I really feel like he has the ability to coach the game and develop a defensive identity for our team. Our group is a hard-playing group, and that’s something that his teams have always represented. So we’re excited about watching the continuity of the group continue.