Oklahoma City Thunder

What hiring Mark Daigneault as head coach means for the Thunder


The Oklahoma City Thunder have hired Mark Daigneault as their new head coach.

If there were any lingering doubts after head coach Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder parted ways, the last 24 hours have pretty much confirmed it: This franchise is heading for a full-scale rebuild.

As first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski Wednesday morning, the Thunder have decided to promote assistant Mark Daigneault as their full-time head coach. This comes just hours after reports of the Phoenix Suns’ interest in trading for Chris Paul surfaced.

Throw in Danilo Gallinari’s status as one of the offseason’s most highly coveted unrestricted free agents and it’s not hard to see the writing on the wall for Oklahoma City. This team and its mountainous pile of extra draft picks are ready to hand the reins over to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the rest of their youngsters.

What do we know about new Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault?

In a 44-win season that placed them fifth in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the Thunder were one of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises. Most pundits expected OKC to tank and for CP3 to be upset about his new surroundings after the Houston Rockets foolishly dumped him for Russell Westbrook, but instead, Paul rallied this fun group to the playoffs and nearly a first-round upset of his former team.

Coming off that Game 7 defeat and Donovan leaving to eventually become the new head coach of the Chicago Bulls, it appears general manager Sam Presti is ready to turn things over to SGA, Luguentz Dort, Darius Bazley and the continuous flow of first-round prospects the Thunder will enjoy over the next decade.

Mark Daigneault’s hiring fits the bill here, given his area of expertise is player development. He was an assistant under Donovan with the Florida Gators from 2010-14, and then rejoined Donovan’s coaching staff with the Thunder last season. In between, he also served as head coach of the Thunder’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, from 2014-19. He posted a .572 winning percentage there and won three division titles.

In other words, he’s had plenty of experience dealing with college kids and developmental players trying to pave their way in the NBA. According to Wojnarowski, his connection with players, ability to teach the game and knack for making both short- and long-term adjustments were the qualities that ultimately helped him land the job.

As Chris Paul trade rumors swirl, Danilo Gallinari suitors prepare their pitches and a developmental, first-time NBA head coach takes the reins, it’s pretty clear the Thunder are fully leaning into their incoming youth movement.

Next: Hawks emerge as potential Jrue Holiday suitor



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