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Thunder-Spurs: Oklahoma City, San Antonio franchises have unique connection

The Spurs helped created the monster that wants to devour them, but Oklahoma City helped the Spurs become the Spurs.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 26, 2012
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Those San Antonio days helped him appreciate the NBA and what major league sports could do for a city.

“That was reflected in success and economic development,” Bennett said in 2006. “Helped build great pride, one thing in town everyone could relate to.

“I felt strongly about the fact that could happen here. Maybe it would have allowed us to have even more economic success we don't know about.”

Bennett's contribution to the Spurs went beyond necessary capital. In 1994, Bennett and the others on the Spurs' board of directors hired Popovich as general manager, a gutsy move considering Pop's highest previous rank in the NBA was assistant coach.

Since then, of course, Popovich has built a model franchise and also established himself as one of the five greatest coaches in NBA history.

In 1998, Bennett accepted the fact that OPUBCO's presence in the ownership was hurting the Spurs' hopes for a new arena. Some in San Antonio believed the Gaylord family was angling to move the Spurs to Nashville, where it had extensive interests, or Oklahoma City, which via the MAPS vote was planning to open a new arena.

So OPUBCO sold its share of the Spurs to another partner, Peter Holt, who took over as chairman of the franchise and since has become one of the most respected owners in the NBA.

You know the rest. Bennett and a group of Oklahoma City-based partners bought the Seattle SuperSonics in 2006 and moved that franchise to OKC in July 2008. Now the Thunder is a runaway NBA success story, with sellout crowds and a national following with its lineup of young stars, making a second straight trip to the Western Conference Finals.

Bennett's first order of business after buying the Sonics was hiring as general manager the 29-year-old Presti.

“I am grateful to Mr. Bennett for giving me an opportunity,” Presti said. “He's the type of person that you don't want to let down, a man of principle and clarity.

“As the owner of our team, he cares deeply about his players and their families, as well as the staff. He cherishes this community and his support of ultimately building an elite and enduring organization in Oklahoma City has been unwavering.”

From the Spurs, Bennett got many of his ideas on how to run just such a franchise.

From Bennett, the Spurs got a chance to stabilize and eventually prosper.

May this showdown series be so even.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.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.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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