"The amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act."
In order to succeed in life, diligence is required, but sometimes luck and timing are as important as effort. Luck and timing combined with Thunder GM Sam Presti's effort times two could be an important step in the strategy to keep Kevin Durant playing in Oklahoma City for many years to come.
As Durant's 2016 contract renewal draws closer, every Thunder fan is hoping Presti can keep the 2014 NBA MVP in Oklahoma City.
There is little doubt Kevin Durant wants a NBA championship. It is Sam Presti's job to convince him his best option to get that is re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Accomplishing that is not that different from getting a prospective customer to buy a car in that, like a car buyer, Durant is going to have other offers available to him. No matter what school of thought on sales technique you read, any professional salesperson will tell you that one important aspect of a successful sales pitch doesn't change. Highlighting the features that differentiates their product from the competition to best satisfy their customer's wants.
I believe Presti started the process of doing exactly that in February when he traded Reggie Jackson to Detroit in exchange for, among other considerations, DJ Augustin. The time was right to make a change and as luck would have it, Durant and Augustin were very close during their college playing careers at Texas and have remained close friends ever since. In a Q&A session with NewsOK.com, Augustin talked about his friendship with Durant:
"Man, we’re like brothers. Obviously we don’t see each other as much as we used to, but when we do see each other we are like brothers. More than friends".... "we don’t see each other as much as we used to, like I said, but when we see each other it’s like we never left."
"I’m so happy for him, man. We spent so much time together when we were at Texas. We lived next door to each other, and we had a connection since the first day we stepped on campus.... I hope he plays terrible tonight, but I’m so happy for him. He’s hard-working; he deserves it all. He’s humble, has his priorities in order, and he’s just someone I really look up to.."
Trade a player that doesn't want on your team for a player that does... and oh, by the way... the player who is now happy here is not only pretty good and at $3 mil/yr, comes at the right price, he is also someone your MVP trusts and respects like a brother.... talk about timing and luck....and it may get even better. When the time came to find a lead assistant for Billy Donovan, luck would seem to have shined on Sam Presti again
After the New Orleans Pelicans fired Monty Williams, Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti and new Thunder head coach Billy Donovan wasted little time adding his much-needed NBA experience to the staff. Williams agreed to join the Thunder as Donovan's #1 assistant coach a mere 21 days after the Pelicans sent him packing.
When the Chicago Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau I thought it might be fun to play around with the idea of Donovan adding him to the Thunder staff, but Williams is a better fit.
Williams clearly holds the edge in NBA coaching experience, but Donovan is seven years older and has been a head coach a total of 21 years compared to Williams 5. Thibodeau is 57 years old, has been a coach for 33 years, and being considered a bit of a taskmaster, differs greatly in his philosophies on player/coach relations than Billy Donovan. In his first press conference as Thunder head coach, Billy Donovan stressed how important is was for him to build strong relationships with his new players.
During his tenure in New Orleans, Williams players liked and supported him. Reportedly, Thibodeau was not the most popular guy in the Bull's locker room.
The reason could be because Williams actually played in the NBA for nine seasons. Because he and his players share common ground, he can look them in the eye and honestly say, "I've been there." That "player" perspective combined with his age and NBA coaching experience make Monty Williams a better choice for Donovan's lead assistant than Tom Thibodeau.
NBA experience and a sound track record of building player relationships aren't the only assets Williams appears to bring to Billy Donovan's staff. He also brings some history with him.
After Williams retired from playing he did a coaching intern stint in San Antonio in 2005. Serving as a front office executive for the Spurs that season, Sam Presti was able to watch Williams learn the ABC's of his craft from Gregg Popovich. Lessons that were obviously put to good purpose as Williams ascended from intern to his first head coaching job in just five years. Needless to say, Monty Williams, though young and still needing some polish, is a very good basketball coach and Presti knows it.
William's more recent history may prove more valuable and possibly "lucky" for the Thunder's future.
Joining Mike Krzyzewski's Team USA Basketball staff in June of 2013 gave Williams the opportunity to work with Kevin Durant during summer preparations for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Durant withdrew from the team on August 14th, but Williams evidently made a lasting impression in just 2 short weeks on the former MVP. When asked in an interview with USA Today about people he admires, Durant said:
"Monty Williamshas been a big influence as well, just coming from the same area I come from, knowing his background and knowing his story ... to know him from afar, just knowing that he put in so much work to become a head coach, just being around him for a week with USA basketball and knowing how great he is with the guys. He is a phenomenal leader, so he inspires me a lot because he's from the area I grew up in and the route he took to making it in the NBA and being a coach and being just a great leader."
As it turns out, Prince George's County in Washington, D.C. were the old stomping grounds for both Monty Williams and Kevin Durant. Talk about an icebreaker to start a conversation.
When Williams was told of Durant's comments in the USA Today interview he responded:
"We'd always been around each other, but we've never talked," Williams said back in December. "When we talked this summer, we realized how much we had in common. His mom I think went to my high school. I think Kevin is a wonderful person and is always doing the right thing. We just had some really good conversations about life and basketball. I'm the one who should be looking up to him. He's a wonderful man and I enjoy being around him."
I think it would be safe to say that adding Monty Williams to the Thunder coaching staff has the KD seal of approval and the feeling is clearly mutual.
Other than meeting the necessary qualifications needed to do their jobs well and being men that Kevin Durant trusts and respects, what else do Monty Williams and DJ Augustin bring to Presti's quest to re-sign his best player? Both bring inside experience of "the features that differentiates their product" of Presti's competition.
Why is that relevant?
One year from now, GM's across the NBA will make their pitch to win the services of one of , if not the most efficient offensive weapons in the league. They will do their homework, understand what KD wants and try to convince him they offer his best option. Sam Presti will be one of them.
As "journeyman" players, Williams and DJ, by definition, have journeyed from team to team throughout their playing careers and own first hand knowledge of those experiences. On his coaching road to the Thunder, Williams was on the other side of the player/organization line with 3 different teams.
When other GM's make the offer to Durant that their team is the place to be, Presti will see their offer and raise it with Augustin and William's experiences. It is a simple marketing strategy called "word of mouth", and the data clearly indicates that it works.
"superfans" who account for 10% of word-of-mouth marketing and generate three to five times more word-of-mouth messages and have a four times greater impact on purchase decisions than anyone else."
If positive online feedback can influence the average consumer that strongly, how much more impact will two men Durant trusts and respect have on his decision next summer? Obviously the answer is a great deal if the Thunder stay healthy next season and the results of the coaching change is good.
Life offers no guarantees, but when Presti had to make a player trade and add an assistant coach, two men fit the needed requirements and offered a fortunate opportunity to increase the Thunder's odds in next summer's Kevin Durant sweepstakes. Sam Presti showed a "willingness to act" on that opportunity and created his own luck.