Thunder general manager Sam Presti hopes to build a playoff contender like Kevin Pritchard has assembled in Portland.
The irony is Pritchard said Presti is one of the people that influenced his career.
Pritchard, a former Oklahoma high school basketball star, has taken over a franchise once mocked as "the Jail Blazers” and has them in position to end a five-year playoff drought.
"I first wanted to change the culture, have both talent and good guys,” Pritchard said. "Quite frankly, I learned that with the Spurs from people like Sam Presti. It’s all about team, putting individual awards and statistics last and put the team first.”
The foundation was laid when Pritchard was the assistant general manager. On the eve of the 2006 draft, Pritchard took out a red pen and wrote: "We’re Back!!!” on a board in a hotel room.
The Trail Blazers made good on his promise when they set an NBA record with six draft-day trades in 2006. Following all the wheeling and dealing, Portland landed LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 2), Brandon Roy (No. 6) and Sergio Rodriguez (No. 27).
"Kevin is incredibly passionate and a very hard worker,” Presti said. "Clearly he’s done a good job in Portland. He’s put them in position with a lot of good decisions. They’re continually getting better and better and are having a good season.”
Pritchard, who was a two time Oklahoman
Super Five selection out of Tulsa Edison more than 20 years ago, has quickly ascended the NBA ranks.
Coach of the Kansas City Knights in the ABA seven years ago, Pritchard got his NBA start when Spurs general manager R.C. Buford hired him as a scout. Buford knew Pritchard from his days as an assistant coach at Kansas, where Pritchard played.
In 2004, Pritchard joined the Blazers as director of player personnel.