Dean Blevins: Daigneault More Than Coach Of The Year

Dean Blevins: Daigneault More Than Coach Of The Year

One of the least-known NBA head coaches not long ago is now hailed as NBA Coaches Association Coach of the Year. The Thunder's low-key but smart-as-a-whip head coach won decisively in a vote from the league’s 30 head coaches.

Mark Daigneault's four Thunder teams have increased win totals each season. Only Boston won more games than the Thunder's 57. And this really gets me. After winning just 24 games two years ago, astoundingly, this 2023-24 bunch of cagers won 33 more games than that developing team.

The Leominster, Mass., native coached his team to a 57-25 record, best of any season in the past decade. He’s joined by his Florida and Thunder friend Billy Donovan as OKCs two head coaches to be voted NBA Coach of the Year as 'Your Heroes' became the youngest team in league history to claim the No. 1 seed in either conference. It’s the best record for any Thunder team in ten seasons. Daigneault and his friend Billy Donovan are the only OKC coaches to win Coach of Year.

Daigneault’s Pups (24-years old average) are the youngest team in modern NBA history to be the Western Conference's No. 1 seed. Only the Celtics won more games. Repeating: Only the NBA favorite Celtics won more.   

The 39-year-old cerebral head man coaches a style based on being unselfish, disciplined and relentless in its precise execution. Bodies in Motion: sounds like a fitness center but is actually the bread and butter of Daigneault’s coaching principles.

Until Daigneault was elevated to the Big Boy Chair in November 2020, Thunder fans hadn’t seen so much slashing and cutting since Little Joe Washington toted the pigskin for Barry Switzer.

Remember back when … OKC had three players who would go on to become NBA MVPs and scoring champs? The persistent hue and cry from fans was that the ball would routinely get stuck. There are worse things than KD or James Harden going one-on-one. But those teams had poor three-point shooting and routinely had players growing beards awaiting a pass that rarely came from one of its future Hall of Famers.

This OKC team zips the ball around to anyone and everyone in Thunder blue, creating what you look for: open looks and layups. This OKC team led the league in 3-point field goal percentage and finished in the Top 5 in nearly 15 key offensive categories.

Only Boston and OKC rank in the Top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

After Daigneault coached the Thunder's G-League OKC Blue for five seasons, OKC's supreme leader in GM Sam Presti pegged the former UConn grad/student basketball manager as the perfect fit to lead the state of Oklahoma’s professional Pride and Joy back into relevancy. 

Some oddsmakers post OKC with the third shortest odds of 14-to-1 to make it back to the NBA Finals. And that ‘relevancy’ has successfully evolved into ‘championship contender’ once again.

And this crazy-smart and likable guy standing arms-crossed near the Thunder bench with that nonplussed expression on his face might've been born in Massachusetts, assisted at Holy Cross and at Florida under Billy D. But on this April Monday night, one Mark Daigneault has become a wildly popular and proud Oklahoman at heart and no doubt has bigger goals in mind than become the 2023-23 NBA Coach of the Year.