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NBA Finals: Marc St. Yves bought into Sam Presti's vision for Thunder early on

He's now the Thunder's director of team operations, but a few years ago Marc St. Yves was a Seattle lifer and the Sonics' equipment manager. But he agreed to pick up and move to Oklahoma when the team did.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 9, 2012

Sam Presti's most gratifying moment was not when the streamers fell from the Chesapeake Arena rafters Wednesday night.

Nor when James Harden sank those backbreaking 3-pointers in crunch time of Games 5 and 6 against the Spurs.

Presti's most gratifying moment was not when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook signed contract extensions that guaranteed the Thunder's competitiveness deep into the decade.

Nor even when Clay Bennett handed his franchise's basketball reins to a 29-year-old kid who was younger than half his players.

Sam Presti's most gratifying moment was when the Seattle SuperSonics' equipment manager said, sure, I'll come to Oklahoma City.

* * *

Marc St. Yves was a Seattle lifer. Even had lived all his 41 years in the same West Seattle neighborhood.

A SuperSonics ball boy at age 13 in 1979-80, the season after the Sonics won their only NBA title. Their equipment manager five years later.

By 2008, St. Yves was approaching his 29th NBA season. He was Mister Sonic. Still a young man, but full of institutional and league knowledge. The answer man. The glue guy. A conduit between players and management and coaches.

“He's a guy that's seen it all,” said the Thunder's Nick Collison, a Sonic rookie back in 2003-04. “He's got great stories.

“Just been a guy that's kind of always been there. Been a great asset to the organization for sure.”

Mister Sonic actually hadn't been a big basketball fan as a kid. Didn't really follow the championship team of Gus Williams and Jack Sikma and Downtown Freddie Brown. Didn't even know basketball rules, really. But in '79, the Sonics' equipment manager, who had married a girl who lived across the street from St. Yves, needed a ball boy.

St. Yves' first game was an exhibition doubleheader at the old Kingdome. “I was absolutely scared to death,” St. Yves said. “But I remember my dad told me, ‘Doesn't matter what you know. If you work hard, things will work out.'”

St. Yves worked hard. Became a loyal comrade to players and staff alike.

“They're not co-workers,” St. Yves said. “They're family members. That's the part that's not like a job. They're friends. They're not former players.”

Nate McMillan played on Seattle's 1996 NBA Finals team, then became a successful Sonic coach. St. Yves says he and McMillan “are basically like brothers.”

But in summer 2006, Bennett and his Oklahoma partners bought the Sonics and hired Presti as general manager.

St. Yves gave Presti and his new coach, P.J. Carlesimo, a tour of the Sonic practice facility.

“He was like, ‘I want to change this place,'” St. Yves said. He thought Presti meant physically. “No,” said Presti, “we need to change this place.”

Said St. Yves, “He wasn't putting new paint on things. He was changing things. I hadn't seen things like that in all my years.”

Part of the purchase agreement was that Seattle had one year to produce a new arena deal. That didn't happen, Bennett announced his intentions to move the franchise to Oklahoma City and the city of Seattle filed suit to keep the Sonics in town. The sides settled in July 2008, and Presti immediately hopped on a plane from Seattle to Orlando, where the Sonics' summer-league team was competing.

Presti didn't plan to offer a job in OKC to every staffer on the basketball side. But he wanted St. Yves.

“He's an integral part of our operation, and not just because he's skilled at what he does, or knows the league, but because he truly cares about the organization,” Presti said. “I trust him explicitly with anything. He's got a great sense of our culture.”

In Orlando, Presti asked St. Yves to come to Presti's hotel room.

He didn't know if St. Yves would accept. A West Seattle lifer. A Sonic ball boy. Loyal to the green and gold.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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