Thunder GM Sam Presti wired a bit differently

JOHN ROHDE Published: June 20, 2009
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photo - Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, listens to a question during a press conference at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City in July. PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN
Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, listens to a question during a press conference at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City in July. PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN

If you're throwing a poker party, you had best steer clear of inviting Thunder general manager Sam Presti.

He'd know what you're thinking before you thought it yourself.

He'd know everybody's odds of winning and losing on every hand.

He'd always have enough chips stacked in front of him to make you think twice.

He'd know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, and would do so with little change of expression.

Getting a read on Presti would be difficult because the man has no tell.

Behind those chic eyeglasses is the ultimate poker face.

The NBA Draft is just five days away, and we're all wondering what Presti is thinking.

Those who know Presti best have always wondered.

"Reading his mind is almost impossible, and he hasn't changed one bit," said longtime Emerson College basketball coach Hank Smith, the man who coached Presti. "His mind is always on overtime. He works so hard, and that's all he knows. When he was here, he was the ultimate in focus."

Presti was a four-year letterman and served as team captain his junior and senior seasons at Emerson, a Division III school in Boston, where he became the school's first ever Rhodes Scholar finalist.

As captain, Presti asked every team member to sign a contract agreeing to play hard, or face removal from the team.

"Sam wanted people on-board with him with that same attitude, or else he wanted you off-board," Smith said. "If you're not in all the way, what's the sense of being here?"

Presti once took a record six charges in one game.

"He was exactly the kind of player you'd think he would be," Smith said of the 6-foot-2 Presti. "He was very analytical of everything. He researched people, everything we were going to do.

"Who else would take six charges, except someone who's a little bit crazy?"

Presti cringes whenever his name is mentioned publicly. He genuinely wants all attention focused on Thunder players, the coaches and the franchise.

Dodging the spotlight has long been Presti's way.

"With him, it was about doing the job he was supposed to and actually not trying to get credit," Smith said.

Though Presti is at the forefront of the Thunder's quest toward competitiveness, he rarely grants interviews, shares philosophies or takes center stage.


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