Why would someone with those kinds of roots sign on for a job in far-off Oklahoma?
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The 2007-08 season was hard on everyone in Seattle. Fans. The city. Players. Staff members.
Presti, particularly. He calls it a “sugarless” season. A lonely, trying, difficult year. Lots of blank stares from his new employees, who wondered not only about the possible move of the franchise but this 29-year-old boss intent on changing things.
When Presti asked St. Yves to the hotel room, St. Yves wasn't sure what to expect.
“I didn't know if I was going to have a future with the organization,” St. Yves said. “I wanted the opportunity.”
Presti asked, and St. Yves enthusiastically accepted.
“Sam, let me convince you, I feel your vision, what the future of this franchise is,” St. Yves said he told Presti. “I don't want to miss it.”
Four years later, Presti still gets choked up talking about that moment.
He couldn't promise 50 wins. Couldn't promise that this kid down at UCLA would make a great sidekick to Durant. Couldn't promise that streamers soon would fall.
“Couldn't promise him anything other than building a first-class program,” Presti said. “The thing that touched me, he bought in at a time he didn't have to.”
The Sonics were coming off a 20-win season. Only 23 wins awaited that first Oklahoma City year.
“My score card that year was the quality of the people,” Presti said. “I have a real deep belief in people, and I'm optimistic about people that want to be a part of something.”
St. Yves wanted to be a part. The players were under contract. The coaches are NBA vagabonds. But the kid from West Seattle didn't have to buy into Presti's vision. And did.
“I don't think he knows how much that meant to me,” Presti said. “I've told him, but I'm not sure he understands.”
No, St. Yves admits today, probably not.
“It was a big decision in my life,” St. Yves said. “My head was spinning. Obviously my family was going to be impacted. I had put so much of my life into the organization.”
But St. Yves says something that tells you why Presti wanted him so: “It kind of goes with my lifelong philosophy. I'm loyal to that logo. Whoever owns that logo … that's who I'm loyal to.
“On top of that, I thought, ‘hey, this is going in the right direction. It was a gut. I didn't know, but I felt it was going to a point where we are sitting here today.”
Presti isn't the only one who gets choked up. St. Yves caught his voice when saying, “Times like this … it's so gratifying to know I made the right choice.”
St. Yves now is the Thunder's director of team operations. Still oversees the equipment but also coordinates travel and basically operates the Thunder practice facility.
Presti, who not so long ago washed towels and stocked the fridge and ran errands for the Spurs, has an appreciation for staff members out of the spotlight.
“It's people like that who make your program go,” Presti said of St. Yves. “It's people like that who uphold your culture, that put the players first. I have an appreciation for people who are the glue for you.”
And so when the streamers fell Wednesday night, and Presti took it all in, his eyes settled on St. Yves.
“Seeing Saint after the game, I couldn't help but think, ‘This guy deserves this,'” Presti said. “I was really happy for him. I felt good about the fact he was going back to the Finals.
“I'm not sure I can ever repay his belief.”
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.