Oklahoma City Thunder promote assistant Mark Daigneault to head coach

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder promoted assistant Mark Daigneault to become the fourth head coach in franchise history, general manager Sam Presti announced on Wednesday.

Daigneault, 35, replaces Billy Donovan, who stepped down in September despite coming in third in NBA Coach of the Year honors this season. Donovan, 55, completed the five-year deal with the Thunder that he signed in April 2015.

Daigneault spent four years as an assistant to Donovan when he was the head coach of the Florida Gators, but left to coach Oklahoma City’s G-League affiliate — the Oklahoma City Blue. Donovan left Gainesville the following season to take over as coach of the Thunder.

“We are thrilled to have Mark assume the role of head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder,” said Presti, who originally hired Daigneault to coach the Blue in 2014. “He has been a selfless and effective leader within our organization since his arrival in 2014. 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.”

After five seasons with the Blue that included four playoff appearances and a 143-107 record, Daigneault was hired as an assistant for the Thunder ahead of last season. During his G-League stint, Daigneault had eight players called up to NBA rosters.

“The opportunity to be the head coach of the Thunder is truly a special honor,” said Daigneault. “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.”

The Thunder weren’t viewed as a playoff contender entering the season, as their two top scorers from 2018-19, Paul George and Russell Westbrook, had exited. However, they tied the Rockets for the fourth-best regular-season record in the Western Conference at 44-28, then pushed Houston to the limit in the playoffs.

Donovan, who has since signed on as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, amassed a 243-157 record in his five years at Oklahoma City, guiding the team to the playoffs each year. His playoff record was 18-23, with the best season being his debut year of 2015-16, when the Thunder lost in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. Oklahoma City led that series 3-1 behind Kevin Durant and Westbrook but couldn’t close it out.

Training camp opens for the Thunder on Dec. 1, three weeks ahead of the season’s start date.

(Field Level Media)