Thunder coach Mark Daigneault named NBA Coach of the Year

NEW ORLEANS — Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault was named NBA Coach of the Year, the league announced Sunday night. 

Two years removed from a 24-win season and just a year removed from a play-in berth, Daigneault coached the Thunder to a 57-25 record this season, becoming the youngest No. 1 seed in NBA history. It began the season as the league’s youngest active team, only older than the San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder finished with both top-five offensive and defensive ratings this season. 

Minnesota’s Chris Finch and Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley were the other finalists.

Daigneault becomes the second Thunder coach to win the award, with Scott Brooks being awarded after the 2009-10 season.

The fourth-year coach began his time with the Thunder organization back in 2014, named head coach for the team’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue. After serving as an assistant under Billy Donovan during the 2019-20 season, Daigneault was handed the keys as his predecessor. 

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Daigneault’s journey began as a manager for the UConn men’s basketball team, working with eventual NBA players such as Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor. From there, Daigneault earned his first assistant coaching job at Holy Cross. He eventually went on to become Donovan’s unofficial assistant before being tapped by Thunder owner Sam Presti. 

‘I want to thank Sam for always seeing me for what I could be rather than what I am,’ Daigneault told the media after he was hired in 2020. 

During a season that began without grandiose expectations, Daigneault has a team mostly without playoff experience on the verge of completing a first-round sweep against the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s found steadiness through spontaneous lineups and unpredictable substitutions. He’s kept a firm identity, playing small lineups and openly accepting tradeoffs. 

The 39-year-old’s staff has earned a reputation for offensive creativity without sacrificing defensive integrity. By the end of the season, Daigneault helped claim a Northwest Division title to earn the tiebreaker in a historically competitive West – making him the favorite for Sunday’s award.

Daigneault was surely aware of the award’s eventual reveal Sunday, and his chances at winning. Still, in typical Daigneault fashion, he chose to deflect any anticipation surrounding him.

‘Nope, no plans,’ Daigneault said when asked what he’d be doing Sunday night. ‘Regular evening.’

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