Sonics Hire Sam Presti As New GM

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 7, 2007; 8:07 PM

SEATTLE -- Sam Presti owes becoming the youngest general manager in the NBA to a homesick teammate at Emerson College.

Eight years ago, Presti, captain of the basketball team at Boston's renowned school for communication and the arts, talked the discouraged player out of quitting and going home to Colorado.

The teammate's father, the superintendent of schools in Aspen, was so appreciative that he invited Presti to coach at a summer basketball camp that happened to be run by R.C. Buford, the general manager of the San Antonio Spurs.

"Fortunately, I somehow endeared myself to them," Presti, now 30, said Thursday of Buford and the Spurs, who entered Thursday four wins from a fourth NBA title since 1999.

By the next summer, Buford had hired Presti as a $250-per-month intern. Seven years later, after establishing himself as a scouting guru and salary cap wizard, San Antonio's former assistant GM is in Seattle.

"Once he was in San Antonio for a month, I think we realized that it was going to be important that we not let him leave," a "crushed" Buford said Thursday from the NBA finals. "Now who knew that seven years later he'd still be with us and continue to grow and turn into one of the outstanding front office talents that I've ever seen, especially when you consider the age."

Presti's mandate as he replaces Rick Sund: Lead the Sonics' search for a new coach, then their return to relevance after their worst season in 21 years.

"I view the San Antonio Spurs as the premier franchise in our business. And Sam Presti had clearly had an important role within that organization, contributed to their winning and how they do business," Sonics owner Clay Bennett said. "But that is not why he got the job.

"He got the job because of who he is, how he does things. ... He is thoughtful. He is methodical. He is measured."

Lenny Wilkens will return to his role as vice chairman. Wilkens, the 70-year-old Hall of Fame coach, had been the president of basketball operations and Bennett's point man on team matters since last fall.

The Sonics own the second pick in the June 28 draft. Seattle's selection is expected to be easy: Kevin Durant or Greg Oden, whomever Portland doesn't take with the No. 1 pick.

Days after that, the Sonics must decide how much money and effort to direct at Rashard Lewis, the team's second-leading scorer, who opted out of the last two years of his contract to become a free agent.

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