On Sunday, when the Thunder faces the San Antonio Spurs at 6 p.m. inisde Chesapeake Energy Arena, it will be Sam Presti’s turn to face an old friend.
The Thunder general manager got his NBA start as a summer intern with the Spurs in 2000. He was promoted to special assistant in the summer of 2001 after leaving Emerson College in Concord, Mass., as that school’s first-ever Rhodes Scholar nominee. He served as the Spurs’ assistant general manager from 2005-07.
Presti then became general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007 at the age of 32 and already is considered among the league’s premier GMs. He promoted Brooks from assistant coach to interim head coach just 13 games into the franchise’s first season in Oklahoma City after relocatiing from Seattle in 2008.
As Brooks spoke of his days with the Rockets, standing to his left was former Houston forward Matt Bullard, now a television analyst with the Rockets. Brooks and Bullard were teammates in Houston from 1992-94.
Brooks still looks back on those days fondly, as you might expect given the Rockets’ tremendous success. “We were the first team to ever win a championship in a major sport in Houston,” Brooks said. “The fans were terrific. They supported us and those were great times playing games in The Summit (which is now Lakewood Church).”
One of Brooks’ teammates in Houston was Hall of Fame center Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, whom Brooks frequently refers to when discussing the best who ever played.
Hakeem was the best on both ends (offense and defense) for five straight years,” Brooks said. “Olajuwon at that time, those two or three years I played there, he was at a level that we didn’t see and you might not ever see again. The guy never missed a shot in the fourth quarter. He made free throws, he made the right plays. He blocked everybody’s shot and he made guys like Bullard and myself lucky to play in the NBA.”
“And that’s the truth,” Bullard said. “We were just living with ‘The Dream.’ ”
Bullard playfully suggested it was he and Brooks who helped Olajuwon block all those shots by “funneling” the players they were guarding toward the basket.