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Thunder-Spurs: OKC general manager Sam Presti got his start in San Antonio

After talking his way into a job with the Spurs, Sam Presti quickly rose through the ranks, then became the Sonics' GM at the age of 29.
By John Rohde Published: May 26, 2012
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/articleid/3679089/1/pictures/1731093">Photo - SIGN / SIGNED: Thunder general manager Sam Presti talks to the media about the Thunder's signing of Derek Fisher before the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Okla.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
SIGN / SIGNED: Thunder general manager Sam Presti talks to the media about the Thunder's signing of Derek Fisher before the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Despite his modest, almost invisible existence from the outset, Presti quickly made an impression on Popovich and Buford.

“I think everybody knew before the week was up that he'd be running the league eventually,” Buford said of Presti.

A 1970 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Team, Popovich is a man who expects much from those around him, and he absolutely gushes about Presti.

“He's one smart dude, No. 1,” Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News of Presti. “That's the first thing you figure out very quickly with Sam. The second thing you figure out, he's a total team player, just a great human being who is comfortable in his own skin, loyal, hardworking. He couldn't have been better for us, and he's even better now.”

Buford said Presti's rapid rise in the front office was a team effort, not an individual quest by Presti.

“We were in this deal together, so it wasn't just giving him responsibilities,” Buford said. “We shared a lot and we grew a lot. Our whole group continued to grow together and anything you gave Sam, he could handle. He just continued to crank out bigger and better work.”

In June of 2007, Presti became general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics at age 29, the second-youngest GM in NBA history.

“We tried to keep him in a closet for a while, so nobody would know about him,” Popovich joked of Presti's humble beginnings as video coordinator. “It became common knowledge around here that he was very sharp and would be looking for his own deal someplace. The time we had him, we were just thrilled.”

In July of 2008, the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City, became the Thunder and by the end of its second season, the franchise was well on its way to becoming a league darling.

And it all has come under the direction of a cerebral, wheeler-dealer in Presti, who started out as a jack of all trades and progressed to one of the best traders in the business.


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