Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti and Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown are both at the top of their profession these days -- Presti running the team with the best record in the Western Conference and Brown guiding one of the league's premiere franchises.
Back in the early aughts when they were both working for the San Antonio Spurs, they weren't quite as established.
Brown was an assistant coach. Presti was an intern right out of college.
Before Presti was charged with putting together players who worked together on a roster for OKC, one of his responsibilities when he was with the Spurs was to put songs that would work together as mix CDs for Brown.
"He used to be into music. I don’t know if he is now, but he used to make me music CDs," Brown said before the Lakers' game against the Thunder on Thursday. "I listen to all types of music. I like the jazz, smooth, mellow type. He turned me on to that a little bit. He’s a good guy."
Presti is actually a pretty good drummer, but his most impressive solo to date didn't involve music. Rather, it was drumming it into the Spurs' organization's head that Tony Parker was the right person to draft with the No. 28 pick in the first round in 2001.
"[Presti] worked extremely hard. You could tell he was bright," Brown said. "He was the one that convinced us to basically draft Tony Parker."
"We worked him out and he was terrible," Brown remembered of a predraft workout in Chicago that he and current Phoenix Suns GM Lance Blanks ran Parker through. "We walked away as coaches like, ‘Man, we’re wasting our time.’ We told Tony that he needed to develop a medium game because he was quick. He couldn’t really shoot the ball and all he could really do was get to the rim, but against 7-footers that’s going to be hard to do all the time. We were done with him after that and Sam and R.C. [Buford] convinced us to bring him back for a second workout in San Antonio."
The rest, of course, is history as Parker has turned out to be a four-time All-Star (he'll be playing in Orlando this weekend), a three-time NBA champion and was named Finals MVP in 2007 when the Spurs beat Brown's Cleveland Cavaliers in a four-game sweep.
"This is a guy who had been in the league a year or two years at the time that it happened," Brown said of Presti's being an advocate of Parker at the time even though he was just a year out of graduating from Emerson College himself. "You knew good things were going to happen to him."
The good things could lead to Presti putting Queen's "We Are The Champions" on a mix CD for himself come June (or more likely on an iTunes playlist).
"I don’t think [Presti] gets enough credit for what he’s done to put this [Thunder] team together," Brown said. "He put it together in a way that I think most GMs around the league envision trying to put a team that’s not that good together, by being cost effective and getting young guys and mixing them with some older guys that are in their prime. Not necessarily guys that are on their way out, but guys that can still play and have a few years to help mentor the young guys that you’ve brought in and just creating a culture of winning. So, you give him a lot of credit."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.