OKC Thunder new assistant coaches clearly emphasize player development objective

Head Coach Billy Donovan of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Head Coach Billy Donovan of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Almost halfway through the offseason, and after a total roster reconstruction, the OKC Thunder have finally filled out their coaching staff.

What an offseason, huh? The biggest shakeup in OKC Thunder franchise history, that saw two superstar players get dealt, an up-and-coming player got caught in the crossfire, and a reclamation project added. Oh yeah, and a ton of draft picks acquired.

However, let’s take it back to before the NBA Free Agent frenzy. The OKC Thunder were coming off the heels of yet another first-round exit under head coach Billy Donovan. Fans wanted him fired, the media wanted him fired, I wanted him fired. The person that did not want him fired? Sam Presti, ultimately the only person who matters.

So the Thunder retained Billy Donovan, who is entering the last year of his contract, but lost most of his coaching staff. The OKC Thunder started this offseason with at least three assistant coaching spots to fill.

They ended up hiring five new faces. The Thunder announced the hiring of David Akinyooye, Dave Bliss, Mark Daigneault, Brian Keefe, as well as Mike Wilks,

These new faces will be filling the spots of Darko Rajakovic, Bob Beyer, and Mark Bryant. Bob Beyer is now with the Kings on Luke Walton‘s staff, while Darko Rajakovic and Mark Bryant join Monty Williams‘ coaching staff with the Suns.

Mark Daigneault has coached the OKC Blue since Billy Donovan has been with the Thunder. Daigneault served on Donovan’s coaching staff at the University of Florida, and last year helped develop the likes of Deonte Burton, Hamidou Diallo, and Kevin Hervey.

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Mike Wilks will be just the second former OKC Thunder player to serve on the teams’ staff with Royal Ivey being the first.

Wilks logged just four games for the boys in blue in his lone season in Oklahoma City (2009-10), but he was a part of Sam Presti’s first year in Seattle (2007) where again he played three games. Injuries riddled Wilks career and now turns to the sidelines to stay in the league.

Another familiar face, if you follow the ins-and-outs of the Thunder is Brian Keefe. Keefe served five years with the OKC Thunder as an assistant coach, first being hired by PJ Carlesimo and Sam Presti prior to the teams inaugural season.

Scott Brooks kept him on staff from there, but eventually, in 2014, Keefe jumped to the New York Knicks. He made a pit stop in L.A. to serve on the Lakers staff but now he is back with the OKC Thunder.

Dave Bliss coached this year’s summer squad and served as an assistant for the OKC Blue for the past four years. During that same time, David Akinyooye also stays on the Blue staff under then-head coach Mark Daigneault. It is unclear who will take over the Blue job as of now.

These coaching hires are interesting, as Billy Donovan heads into the last year of his deal, they fill out a staff around him without any NBA head coaching experience. Now, it is clear Billy Donovan is no longer on the hot seat. When the staff first dissipated into thin air, some thought what if Presti hires a guy with head coaching experience? It would be easier to give Donovan the boot midway through a season if things go wrong.

It is clear the direction of the staff is geared around keeping Billy Donovan around for this rebuild, without the pressure of coaching stars (besides Chris Paul for a little while…) as the Thunder go for a more developmental approach.

Again, everyone besides Wilks has development coaching experience, with Daigneault, Bliss, and Akinyooye, all having valuable experience with the Blue and most of the young players on this roster.

Next. Will Billy Donovan be right for the rebuild?. dark

It looks as if Billy Donovan is sticking around for the long haul, let us know how you feel about that in the comment section below!