9:53am: The Thunder have made it official, announcing in a press release that Daigneault is the team’s new head coach.
“We are thrilled to have Mark assume the role of head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder,” Presti said in a statement. “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.
“The amount of head coaching experience and diverse experiences through his tenure with the Blue is rare for someone his age. 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.”
9:07am: The Thunder are promoting assistant coach Mark Daigneault to fill their head coaching vacancy, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Daigneault, who worked under Billy Donovan at the University of Florida from 2010-14, was hired in 2014 as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G League affiliate. He held that role for the next five years before reuniting with Donovan in OKC in 2019, becoming an assistant on the Thunder’s coaching staff.
During his five years with the OKC Blue, Daigneault posted a 143-107 (.572) record, including a 96-54 (.640) mark during his final three seasons — the G League squad finished atop the Midwest division in each of those three years.
While a report last week indicated that Daigneault was receiving strong consideration for the Thunder’s head coaching job, he was still a somewhat under-the-radar candidate, given his age (35) and his limited experience at the NBA level.
Sources tell Wojnarowski that general manager Sam Presti is enthusiastic about Daingeault’s track record within the organization, as well as his ability to connect with players, teach the game, and make short- and long-term adjustments.
Donovan’s departure from the franchise in September was believed to be related to the fact that he didn’t have the appetite for a rebuild, and there are indications that the Thunder will be pivoting in that direction soon. The expectation is that the franchise will probably move on from veterans like trade candidate Chris Paul and free agent forward Danilo Gallinari, while focusing on building around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, and Luguentz Dort.
[RELATED: Suns pondering trade for Chris Paul]
The hiring of a first-time head coach like Daigneault is the latest indication that the Thunder may be taking a step back from contention in the next year or two — Daigneault should get the opportunity to grow into the job as the club’s young players develop, without the pressure of having to make the playoffs every year.
Will Hardy, Brian Keefe, Will Weaver, and Charles Lee were among the other candidates rumored to have been in the running for the Oklahoma City job before the team landed on Daigneault. With the Thunder poised to make Daigneault’s promotion official, all nine teams that made head coaching changes this year will have hired replacements, as our tracker shows.