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Basketball, city execs praise SuperSonics deal



Jim Couch was exhausted. The Oklahoma City manager had just culminated weeks of intense negotiating, ending with rapid sessions of late-night deal making, to bring professional basketball to the city.

During a telephone interview with Oklahoma Gazette, the exhaustion and stress of the moment finally got to Couch when asked how he would fight off the perception that the city had played Fido to its SuperSonics masters.

"I'm almost a little insulted "¦ if you have any idea how many hours and nights were spent," Couch said.

The time spent putting a deal together that allows the Sonics to move from Seattle to Oklahoma City and play at the Ford Center is not the most important aspect of the story. But Couch's flair for defending himself and his staff underscores the main question when looking at the lease agreement between the city and Sonics: What did the city dish in and fork out for NBA action?

"It's an excellent document " very fair, very reasonable," Sonics principal owner Clay Bennett said at an NBA press conference shortly after the league approved the move on April 18.

NBA Commissioner David Stern described a gathering storm of public and private forces to produce what he sees as a viable financial deal.

"This ownership group in that city is very likely to be successful," Stern said.

Couch said, "We worked long and hard to negotiate agreements that provide a solid foundation for Oklahoma City's success as a major-league city. These are agreements citizens can take pride in." "Scott Cooper


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