Clay Bennett Rumors
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.’”
But Bennett’s words were as devoid of truth as much as KeyArena is devoid of Sonics basketball today. The Gasman’s foresight became a reality. After a nasty two-year litigation process, the team announced on July 2nd, 2008 that they would be moving to Oklahoma City. What went wrong? Mike Gastineau strikes the gavel and points the finger right at Schultz. “Howard Schultz was a quitter and that’s what killed this team. He is the beginning, middle, and end of it. He is an incredible titan of industry. He taught the world about $4 for a cup of coffee but he was a terrible basketball owner,” says Gastineau.
That a major station could ignore a third of the professional sports sphere entirely is preposterous from an outsider’s perspective. But it is a testament to the severity of the pain that the move to Oklahoma City caused the city of Seattle. “There’s no doubt there’s a huge hole here. There’s a huge gap here, especially in the wintertime. Once the NFL season ends in January, that’s when the traditional rhythms of thinking about basketball used to start and now it’s gone.” “People say, ‘Oh it’s not that bad’, but really it is like there was a death in the family. When they left, it left a huge hole in the city’s sports heart that might never be fixed,” add Gastineau.
Fresh off a stunning collapse that pushed his Los Angeles Clippers within a game of season’s end, still fuming over a controversial replay call he would later call “horrendous” and “series-defining,” Doc Rivers marched out of the locker room late Tuesday with fury in his eyes. He headed toward the interview room only to spot Oklahoma City Thunder chairman Clay Bennett walking past in the hallway, according to Yahoo Sports.
“Wow!” Rivers yelled at Bennett, according to the website. “Why can’t we get the right replay?” Bennett, perhaps still stunned by his unlikely change in fortune, didn’t say a word in response and just kept walking.