Mark Daigneault wins NBA Coach of the Year after Thunder’s incredible turnaround season


Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault was named the NBA Coach of the Year on Sunday, having guided the youngest team in league history to earn a No. 1 seed in either conference.

Daigneault, 39, a former student manager for UConn’s basketball team, steered the organization to its first playoff berth since 2020 in his fourth season with the Thunder. This means, yes, he coached a team that went from missing the playoffs last year to becoming the top team in the West.

Daigneault is the 13th coach under the age of 40 to win the award, according to Elias Sports, and only two coaches since 1963 (Phil Jackson and Larry Bird, three years) had fewer seasons of head-coaching experience than Daigneault when he won the award.

The Thunder, who entered the season as the league’s second-youngest team (players’ average age: 24), hold a commanding 3-0 series lead over the New Orleans Pelicans in a Western Conference first-round match.

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The NBA’s top coach, like all of the awards being announced this month by the league, was decided by a panel of 100 media members who regularly cover the league. For the first time, voters could not cast ballots until the season concluded, and in this case, it may have played in Daigneault’s favor. First place in the West came down to the final day of the regular season, and the Thunder won their game and held a tiebreaker with the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets.

Daigneault beat out finalists Chris Finch (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Jamahl Mosley (Orlando Magic) as the league’s top coach.

The Thunder improved by 17 games from last season to this under Daigneault, becoming one of just four teams in league history to bump its win total up by at least 16, year over year, as well as the youngest team in league history to win at least 55 games (they won 57). Oklahoma City has an MVP finalist in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and led the NBA in 3-point percentage, vital in the modern era where the best teams typically bomb away from deep.

Daigneault was also voted the league’s top coach by the National Basketball Coaches Association, an award decided by the NBA’s 30 head coaches. He was Oklahoma City’s G League coach from 2014 to 2019 before spending one season on Billy Donovan’s bench — when the Thunder last reached the postseason as a participant in the NBA Bubble at Disney World.

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Daigneault was tabbed to replace Donovan and steer the organization’s rebuild. In just four seasons, he helped turn the Thunder into a legitimate title contender.

Finch guided the Timberwolves (tied with OKC and Denver heading into the final day) to the second-most wins in team history and prevailed over the league’s top-rated defense. Mosley has the Magic way ahead of schedule in their rebuild, guiding them to a fifth-place finish in the East when few expected Orlando to be anything better than a Play-In team, at most.

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(Photo: Alonzo Adams / USA Today)





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