[Sonic Chairman Clay] Bennett also said he is restructuring the front office, stripping Lenny Wilkens of his presidency and making him a consultant. Bennett was not pleased with the way Wilkens handled his job and decided to give Presti day-to-day control and allow him to report directly to ownership.
More from the News Tribune, which reports the Bennett/Wilkens relationship started on a bad foot, when Wilkens announced on the radio that he was likely to become team president, even though no contract was signed. Accurately or not, Bennett reportedly took it as a Wikens tactic to gain leverage in an ongoing negotiations about how much Wilkens would be paid:
Despite his anger, Bennett had no choice but to allow Wilkens to conduct a search for a general manager and a coach. He had fired Wally Walker, Sund and Hill and had no one left to whom he could turn.
But as teams around the league with vacancies conducted their own searches, Wilkens allowed his search to drag on while hiring his son as a scout.
Then, as the San Antonio Spurs were competing in the playoffs, coach Gregg Popovich called Bennett to endorse assistant coaches P.J. Carlesimo and Don Newman as potential replacements for Hill.
During the conversation, Popovich also told Bennett he did not have to wait until after the playoffs to request an interview with Presti. Bennett asked Popovich if Wilkens had called the Spurs to request permission and was informed he had not. Bennett was further angered by that bit of news, sources say.
Hughes says Bennett then took on much of the interview process himself, and initially met with Presti without Wilkens, who was advocating John Gabriel for the job.