Clay Bennett Rumors
“On behalf of the Thunder organization and the entire State of Oklahoma I want to congratulate Russ and offer my sincere appreciation for not only his profound presence and skill as a player, but for his high character, personal integrity and extraordinary leadership,” said Clayton I. Bennett, Thunder chairman. “We are thrilled he will continue with us and we look forward to exciting days ahead for the Oklahoma City Thunder.”
Kanter is a proud Muslim. He practices his faith daily, which includes prayer. For it, he needs a private, quiet room. Clay Bennett has an office at the facility, but it’s not often used. So they called Bennett and asked if Kanter could utilize the space for prayer. Bennett’s answer: yep, no problem. Kanter used it then and still uses it today. And when timing dictates, he has a prayer room available at the arena, near the locker room — an auxiliary room cleared out by the Thunder before his first home game.
So for two days in late April, with Donovan unsure if this were the right fit and Thunder general manager Sam Presti fully prepared to make a bigger-than-basketball pitch, they holed up in a Ritz-Carlton conference room 100 miles from the Florida campus in Gainesville. Amelia Island, where Presti and assistant general manager Troy Weaver interviewed Donovan for 14 hours on the first day and owner Clay Bennett followed with a seal-the-deal session on Day No. 2, was where one of the NBA’s most fascinating franchises faced its fork in the road.
“It was amazing,” Donovan, who signed a five-year, $30 million deal with the Thunder, told USA TODAY Sports recently of the interview process that led to his hiring. “It wasn’t like, ‘What are you going to do on offense? What are you going to do on D? How are you going to use this guy?’ It was just more like, ‘You know, we want to be in an environment and a situation in this building where everybody is raising each other’s level, where everybody is making each other better, and we would like for you to help make our building better, and the people around here better, and we want the people around here to make you better, and everything is about trying to make the players better.’ But it was always about this relationship, about everybody being in that position to be able to do their best work. “Mr. Bennett never talked to me once about basketball. He asked me about my family. He asked me about what my spiritual background was. He talked to me about the city. He talked to me about the state of Oklahoma. He talked to me about the organization and its vision and what kind of impact they could make, what kind of legacy they wanted to leave. I was just like, ‘Wow.’”