Presti Focused on Thinking Big, Building Small

Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti has always had a vision.

In wrapping up the 2011-12 season, Presti on Sunday addressed the media and outlined how that vision has developed and come into sharper focus over the past year. The basic tenets of hard work, dedication to doing the little things right and being committed to the team as a whole are still the main goals of the organization, and Presti wants that to continue.

“We have to think big, but we have to build small,” Presti said. “That’s the mentality that we’ve had here since 2008 and it’s a mentality that I believe best serves this organization. We’re going to continue thinking in those terms, controlling what we can control and focus on building a team that ultimately can sustain success.”

That ability to perpetuate a culture and cycle of winning is something that Presti is extremely conscious of, and zeroed in on, moving forward. With a young core of players who genuinely enjoy playing with one another, it will be important to manage the expectations and maintain the same level of hunger and excitement for improvement that the team has exhibited the past few years. The Thunder may have improved its winning percentage and Playoff advancement in each of the past four seasons, but the challenge to sustain that level of success will be tough.

“There are a lot more forces at work to make it more difficult to focus on the things that have allowed you to achieve that level of success,” Presti said. “I think it’s good for us to exercise some humility as we go through that and understand that it’s a combined effort of everybody and that you have to stick together even when the water is a little rough. Because ultimately, we have a vision for the organization that we’re trying to maintain on a daily basis, but it’s hard to do that and history shows that.”

The key then, is to continue to utilize the process-based approach that has worked so far and continue to use it as the foundation for growth in the coming seasons. Players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have shown development in both their games and leadership qualities through that process, and Presti believes that those two, in addition to the rest of the players on the Thunder roster, can do the same by simply holding themselves to the team’s internal standard on a daily basis.

“This organization has to be thinking about how we do things and not pointing to what we want to do,” Presti said. “It’s what has served us well in the past and I think it’s important for us to understand every year is unique and that the year we had was fantastic but we need to turn the page. We need to take a builder’s mentality to next season and understand that the only thing we’re entitled to is the same number of days to improve as every other team in the NBA.”

Since the season ended on Thursday night, the Thunder basketball operations staff immediately switched gears to focus on what lies ahead in this offseason and for next year. Whether it be preparing for this Thursday’s NBA Draft, getting ready for free agency or potentially looking to extend current players’ contracts, the Thunder has been diligent with its work.

The coaching staff, medical staff and other members of the basketball operations department has also given each player a set of things to work and improve upon this summer. The idea of player development has always been at the forefront of the Thunder’s philosophy, which is why Presti believes that every player and every person in the organization has an opportunity this summer to improve.

“For us, player development is an ongoing process,” Presti said. “That’s going to be a focus for our organization regardless of win totals. It’s irrespective I think primarily because all players here we feel like everybody can improve, everybody can get better. Some people, it may have to be those incremental gains, cumulative gains, but we feel like player development is critical for us.”