“But as you come in contact with those individuals, you start to understand the level of resolve and your optimism about the ability to recover grows, and you can see the humanitarian nature of the people that make up this community.
“As I said before, it’s clear that the resolve, the resiliency and the faith of the people that have had to endure this is infinitely stronger than that of what has taken place. And that’s said with the utmost respect with the tragedy that’s occurred.”
* I asked Presti what he likes about Oklahoma City.
“I think the people are, to me, the thing that drives the city,” Presti said. “I think the civic pride that exists here is second to none. And I think it’s a city of purpose. There’s a sense of purpose that exists in Oklahoma that makes all of us proud to call it home.”
* Presti on the importance of the Thunder being involved in the community: “As an organization, being a community-minded team is incredibly important. Recognizing that part of being a professional basketball team here is giving back. We recognize this will be a long process, as the community recovers, but we’re prepared to see that through when we can.
“And I believe our players have a genuine appreciation for the people that have supported them and stand ready with the rest of the organization to do what we can and be part of that standard, because we’ve learned in five years that we’ve been here why that standard exists and why it must stand.”
* One of Presti’s favorite moments from the tour was when he recognized a woman who is a season-ticket holder. She was wearing a Nick Collison shirt.
“Very passionate North Carolina State fan,” Presti said. “Pushed a lot of Wolfpack players on us over the years. She lost her home. We visited a little bit, then met some other family and friends, and some other players.
“She said to me, ‘You know, I don’t know that I’m going to make that payment on my tickets coming up. And I said, ‘I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that. We’ll take care of that for you.’ We shared a moment there. Then she went right over to Russell, and they had a nice visit.
“It was another example of how small the community is. It’s an example of why we feel so strongly attached to the people who support our team. It brings perspective to the fact that basketball is irrelevant. We talk a lot about the games. Reality is, it’s about the people and the fact that we’re part of this community. You have to demonstrate that consistently, and that goes beyond the court.”
* Presti takes being the sole franchise in a market, a small market compared to most major league cities, seriously.
“Small market sports go beyond the sports,” Presti said. “That’s what makes working in a small market so meaningful. The work you do truly does matter.”
A franchise like the Thunder is an inspirational piece of the city. That’s why, Presti says, he’s so intent on building an organization that has an identity. Being community minded.”
* The Thunder also spent time in a command post with police and fire personnel.
“We spent a lot of time at the command centers with the guys taking breaks, working long shifts,” Presti said. “That was another part of what we were trying to accomplish.
“A lot of the police officers were the same that worked the arena. Lot of relationships there. Another illustration of small market sports. This is what makes it special. Like I told you, some people just don’t recognize, in a small market, it’s about sustainability so you ultimately are defined by more than wins and losses. You are going to be called upon to do things in the community. We are the team that has to do that. Tragic that it’s something like this. We’re not proud to be talking about this. It’s incredibly unfortunate, but I can say we’re here to help, any way we can. Hopefully we’re going to be here for a long time.”