Mark Daigneault- Grade: B+
Mark Daigneault started this year with a tough assignment: lead the rebuild. He decided to coach this roster developmentally, meaning Diagneault cared more about each player improving instead of the game’s outcome.
This kind of culture was not something anyone is used to watching from Oklahoma City. The Thunder have been a playoff contending team for 10 years. But winning enough games to squeak into the playoffs is not a part of the rebuilding blueprint.
He analyzed each piece on the Thunder’s roster and reviewed how they fit into his style of play. While piecing together this team he simultaneously coached each player to help them improve their level of play.
“He was so purposeful and diligent with everything he did this season, I’m really happy for him,” Mike Muscala said.
This season we witnessed each player on Oklahoma City’s roster improve a facet of their game as well as become more balanced players. Ty Jerome went from scoring three points per game to scoring 11 and Muscala doubled his shot production from five to ten points per game. In January, Lu Dort averaged 35 percent from behind the arc yet in April he averaged 46 percent. Under Daigneault’s guidance, Aleksej Pokusevski went from averaging 1 point per game to averaging 11 points per game and became a more well-rounded player.
“He’s such a caring person and his attention to detail is just phenomenal,” Muscala said. “I thought he was so consistent all season long with film work and challenging guys to improve their games.”
Not only was each player improving, but they continued to have a winning mentality. Most teams going through rebuilds lose passion for winning when they know the overarching goal is to lose. But Oklahoma City always played to win and never lost sight of remaining competitive. A winning mentality always begins with the coaching staff and Daigneault was a leader in that regard. It was evident the players respected his coaching style.
“The team follows him, we listen to him, we embrace him,” Al Horford said. “Just very impressed with him, I really am.”
After surveying what improvements he was able to make in a season like this, it will be interesting to see what Daigneault’s capable of when the Thunder transition out of the rebuild.
“The years that he has to come here, he’s just the guy, you know he gets it,” Horford said.