Oklahoma City Thunder: 'Behind the Music' with Sam Presti

Wednesday's news conference unexpectedly welcomed Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" while introducing the lighter side of Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
John Rohde, Staff Writer, JRohde@opubco.com Modified: September 27, 2012 at 9:29 am •  Published: September 27, 2012

Wednesday's news conference unexpectedly welcomed Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" while introducing the lighter side of Thunder general manager Sam Presti.

The habitually tight-lipped Presti spent 15 minutes of his hour-long interview session freely sharing his thoughts on music, movies, television, Jay-Z, James Brown, Woody Guthrie, plus Bob Dylan's recent performance at the Zoo Amphitheater.

It all began harmlessly enough when Presti was asked what he did during the offseason to "decompress" after OKC advanced to last season's NBA Finals and lost 4-1 to the Miami Heat.

"I like music documentaries," Presti began. "For those of you who haven't seen the new George Harrison documentary, it's fascinating. It's a long watch, but well worth it."

An accomplished drummer, Presti produced three music CDs where all proceeds benefitted the Extra Ordinary Needs Fund at Children's Hospital in Boston, which is where Presti attended Emerson College.

"The other thing I'm kind of hooked on now is VH1 has this series called 'Classic Albums.' I'm totally hooked," Presti continued. "If you know where to find the actual set of them, let me know because I can't find them. I do most of my viewing on YouTube. It basically takes you back to how albums were made – like Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'; Jay-Z's 'Reasonable Doubt,' that was really good; Steely Dan's 'Aja.' You go back through the producer and you hear what they were thinking, and artists themselves what they were thinking when they were doing the actual recording. It's fascinating. It's really, really good."

When the topic kept veering away from basketball, Presti smiled and joked: "Everybody knows I'm like really open about all this stuff. You're catching me on a good day."

Would you like to be a producer in your second job?

"I don't know. I just got hooked on it. I just think the creative process is really fascinating and to see people working through that, and a lot of times how spontaneous things are. These historical songs, artistic creations, like somebody sitting in the studio and he just decides at the last minute 'What if we just put this on there?' and it becomes that piece that just ties it all together."

Don't all basketball people secretly want to be musicians?

"For me, it's not really the music part. It's more something I'm interested in. Someone like George Harrison and what inspired him and his mentality being part of that group, things he accomplished."

Is it similar to how you put a team together?

"To make that connection is probably to take the job too seriously. I just find enjoyment in it."

So, is your goal to have the Thunder stay on the charts for as long as Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" (741 weeks from 1973-1988)?

"It's really interesting just to see how they collaborated, the things that were happening socially at the time, kind of go into that."

Are you a beatnik? Are you sorry you missed Woodstock? Do you drive a VW bus? What's with you?

"I did see Dylan at the Zoo Amphitheater while he was here. … He was really good. The other thing about seeing Dylan here was he's a huge (Woody) Guthrie fan. I kept thinking to myself, 'I wonder in this performance if there's anything special in there because his hero was born here (in Okemah)? Did this performance mean anything more to him because that's his idol?' "

When the topic returned to basketball and Presti was asked how negotiations were progressing with potential restricted free agents James Harden and Eric Maynor, Presti playfully quipped: "Well, as I was saying about 'Dark Side of the Moon.' It's a really great album …."

Seen any good movies lately?

"Well, I think the movie you're referring to ("Thunderstruck," starring Thunder small forward Kevin Durant), I have seen previous screenings and I think he's a tremendous basketball player. No, he's a multi-talented individual and the thing I really love about him is he's such a good-natured person. We're so fortunate to have in the organization. He personifies so much of what we want to be about as an organization. He grows in all these different ways and I'm happy that he enjoyed that process."

If you could contact VH1 and make them do an album documentary, who would it be about?

"Oh, man. That's hard. Can we go back to the negotiating questions? I'm going to go with the first thing that popped in my head. An artist named Elliott Smith (who died in 2003 at age 34). He had an album called 'XO.' He was kind of a folk, artsy guy, a fascinating songwriter. I'd love to see kind of how he developed the sings on that album. And then pretty much anything by James Brown I would be fascinated by, just to see how he guided the bands because the bands were just so tight, so well put together. 'Kind of Blue' by Miles Davis, to see that history basically coming together. That would be awesome. I'll stop there. I could go on."

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