The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Wednesday that they have filled their head coaching vacancy by promoting former assistant Mark Daigneault to head coach after having parted ways with former bench boss Billy Donovan earlier during this offseason.
Daigneault has now reached the pinnacle in Oklahoma City, completing a meteoric six-year rise through the organization that included a successful five-year stint leading the team’s G-League affiliate to a .572 record and a trio of division crowns.
The Massachusetts native spent just one year on Donovan’s staff before the powers that be decided that the 35-year-old was ready to take the reins of this franchise, which is sitting as a big-time long shot to win next year’s NBA title at +10,000 odds on sports betting site 888sport. The young Daigneault was predictably humbled by the move, as evidenced in a statement released through the team.
“The opportunity to be the head coach of the Thunder is truly a special honor,” Daigneault said. “Over my six years in Oklahoma City I’ve developed a deep commitment to the organization and a care for what is truly a special community that I call home. From my first day here, my values have always been aligned with those of the organization, and I’m looking forward to helping them continue to be lived out on and off the court.”
The hire of Daigneault—which came just in time, three weeks before NBA training camps officially open—occurred after a weekslong search led by Thunder team president and general manager Sam Presti, one of the most well-respected executives in basketball.
After surprising everyone with a playoff berth last year, it seems Presti is now embracing a rebuild around a young core led by point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Daigneault, who is the second-youngest head coach in the association right now. Presti would disagree with any perceived lack of experience for Diagneault, however.
“The amount of head coaching experience and diverse experiences through his tenure with the Blue is rare for someone his age,” Presti said in a statement. “He has also shown the ability to empower both the players and staff he works with, and we are confident that he will help us continue to modernize our approach as an organization in a constantly evolving industry.”
Daigneault has never been a part of another NBA franchise, having gotten his start at UConn under legendary head coach Jim Calhoun as a student manager in 2003 before moving on to Holy Cross as an assistant from 2007 to 2010, then Florida as a graduate manager and head coaching assistant for the next four years. It was there, in Gainesville in 2014, that Presti found Daigneault, eventually managing to pry him away from the Gators and bring up to Oklahoma City, where he’s been ever since.
“He has been a selfless and effective leader within our organization since his arrival in 2014,” Presti said of Daigneault in his statement. “Mark is a values-based leader, continuous learner, and someone that will help us continue the repositioning of our organization on and off the court.”