OKC Thunder: Five new assistant coaches for Donovan, every one of them with previous Oklahoma City ties

Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)

New team, new coaching staff?

That’s pretty much the case given the Thunder’s Tuesday announcement that head coach Billy Donovan’s staff, which had suffered several departures following Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff exit to Portland, is back at full strength.

The announcement came, via release, Tuesday afternoon.

Still, for Donovan’s new staff to truly parallel the Thunder's player movement since season’s end, the players would have had to come primarily from the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate or the Thunder's summer league team.

In all, the Thunder announced five new assistant coaches. All five of them with ongoing or previous ties to the franchise, two of them with the Blue and two others who began in the lower rungs of the Thunder organization.

Their names are David Akinyooye, Dave Bliss, Mark Daigneault, Brian Keefe and Mike Wilks.

“Each of our coaches on this year’s staff has a unique perspective on Thunder basketball that we believe will be a great benefit to our players,” Donovan said, through the release that announced the moves.

“We are thrilled to welcome Brian Keefe back to the program, and seeing Dave, Mark, David and Mike all rise through our ranks to these positions on our staff is a testament to their hard work and dedication.”

• Akinyooye had been a Blue assistant the previous four seasons. He began his coaching life as “coaching workout assistant” with the New York Knicks for the 2012-13 season, before becoming the “player development quality assurance” assistant for one season with the San Antonio Spurs. After coaching a year in France, he joined the Blue.

• Bilss, who is not related to former Oklahoma, SMU, New Mexico and Baylor coach Dave Bliss, began with the Thunder as a video analyst in 2010. He spent three seasons with the Knicks as a player development coach and last season returned to the Thunder in a similar role. Bliss was also the head coach of the Thunder’s summer league team earlier this month in Las Vegas.

• Daigneault has been the Blue’s head coach the previous five seasons, amassing a 143-107 record that included four trips to the G-League’s playoffs. Daigneault also spent four seasons assisting Donovan when Donovan was the head coach at the University of Florida.

• Keefe was a full Thunder assistant from 2008 to 2013, serving under head coaches P.J. Carlesimo and Scott Brooks. He spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. Keefe began his career in the NBA as an assistant video coordinator for San Antonio in 2005.

• Wilks will be on the OKC bench after seven seasons as the Thunder’s senior pro evaluation scout. Wilks will be the second former Thunder play to become an assistant coach, the first being Royal Ivey. He spend the last four games of his 233-game, seven-year NBA career in Oklahoma City.

The group will join three holdovers from Donovan's staff a year ago: assistant coaches Maurice Cheeks and Vin Bhavani and director of quality control Billy Schmidt.

“With Mo, Vin and Billy Schmidt also back for next season,” Donovan said. “I couldn’t be more excited to get to work with this group.”

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