A 23-year-old Sam Presti made an immediate impression upon R.C. Buford when the two met at a basketball camp in Aspen.

Presti began his career with the Spurs in the video room at the Alamodome.

“All I can tell you,” Buford said, “is that by the end of the camp, Pop and I were convinced that some day he’d be running the league.”

“He’s one smart dude, No. 1,” Popovich said. “That’s the first thing you figure out very quickly with Sam. The second thing you figure out, he’s a total team player, just a great human being who is comfortable in his own skin, loyal, hard-working. He couldn’t have been better for us, and he’s even better now.”

The Spurs quickly knew that Presti would eventually become an NBA GM.

“We tried to keep him in a closet for a while, so nobody would know about him,” Popovich said. “It became common knowledge around here that he was very sharp and would be looking for his own deal someplace. The time we had him, we were just thrilled.”