Thunder’s Coaching Search Concludes With A Thud

It took the Oklahoma City Thunder two months of a coaching search to promote Billy Donovan’s assistant, Mark Daigneault.

Never heard of Daigneault? Don’t feel bad. Neither have most Thunder fans. But fans of the OKC Blue probably have, as Daigneault coached the G-League franchise for five years.

Other than being hired to Donovan’s staff, Daigneault’s run in the G-League is perhaps his most notable achievement.

This isn’t intended to rip on Daigneault. For all we know, he could turn out to be the next Erik Spoelstra. Nobody really knew Spoelstra when the Heat hired him back in 2010, and he’s sure done OK.

And goodness knows, splashy coaching hires aren’t always the answer. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers and John Beilein.

But it’s fair to wonder what took Thunder GM Sam Presti so long to land his man … when the guy Presti supposedly wanted had been sitting there all along.

Would no one else take the job? Is this a way to save money, since Daingault would be a cheaper option than, say, Mike D’Antoni? Or did the Thunder just get back from vacation and ask themselves, “Hey, did we hire a coach yet?”

Donovan agreed to part ways with the Thunder in early September. He has since become coach of the Chicago Bulls. While the Thunder job was still vacant, plenty of well-known names were out there — from Tyronn Lue to Nate McMillan to Stan Van Gundy and his brother, Jeff.

But with news leaking that the Thunder are in talks to trade Chris Paul, it seems they aren’t interested in building on last season’s surprising playoff run.

Instead, they appear determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again, with both eyes firmly planted on an NBA Draft Lottery tank.

Besides the Indiana Pacers bringing in former Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren, the Thunder hiring Daigneault is the dud of the NBA offseason. It’s quite a change from the days of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Or even Westbrook and Paul George. Or even last season.

Suddenly, the Thunder don’t want to win. And they have just the man for the job. And to think it only took two months to find him.

Written by Sam Amico

Sam Amico spent 15 years covering the NBA for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports and NBA.com, along with a few other spots, and currently runs his own basketball website on the side, FortyEightMinutes.com.

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