OKC Thunder Announces Coaching Staff Updates


OKLAHOMA CITY, July 23, 2019 – The Oklahoma City Thunder has named David Akinyooye, Dave Bliss, Mark Daigneault, Brian Keefe and Mike Wilks assistant coaches, it was announced today by the team. They join current Thunder assistant coaches Maurice Cheeks and Vin Bhavnani along with director of quality control Billy Schmidt on Head Coach Billy Donovan’s staff.

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

Akinyooye (ah-kin-YO-yay) joins the Thunder after spending the last four seasons as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Blue. Akinyooye came to Oklahoma City in 2015 following a one-year stint as an assistant coach in Lyon, France with Asvel Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket.

Prior to his time in Lyon, Akinyooye served as a player development quality assurance assistant with the San Antonio Spurs during their 2013-14 NBA championship season. He began his coaching career in 2012-13 with the New York Knicks in the role of coaching workout associate.

Bliss has been elevated to an assistant coaching position after spending the 2018-19 season as a senior player development coach for the Thunder. Bliss returned to Oklahoma City in 2018 after spending the three previous seasons with the New York Knicks as a player development coach. He previously worked with the Thunder as video analyst/player development coach from 2010-15 and this past month Bliss served as the head coach of the Thunder’s summer league team.

He began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at the University of Georgia before transitioning to Virginia Commonwealth University to work as a graduate assistant. Bliss worked under Head Coach Shaka Smart during his time at VCU, helping the team to a 27-9 record. A four-year starter at Georgia, Bliss played a key role as the Bulldogs won the school’s second SEC Conference Tournament Championship in 2008.

Mark Daigneault (DAYG-nalt) joins the Thunder sideline after spending the past five seasons as head coach of the Oklahoma City Blue. He led the Blue to four playoff appearances and holds a career 143-107 (.572) record. Daigneault also served as head coach of the Thunder’s summer league team for three consecutive years (2016-2018).

Under Daigneault’s watch the past five seasons, the Blue has seen eight players called up to NBA rosters and four players signed to Two-Way Contracts. During the 2015-16 season, Daigneault joined Donovan’s Thunder coaching staff midseason after Cheeks was sidelined due to hip surgery. Daigneault came to Oklahoma City after spending his previous four years working under Donovan at the University of Florida, where he most recently held the position of assistant to the head coach. Throughout his four years at Florida, the Gators totaled a record of 120-30 (.800), won three SEC titles and advanced to the Elite Eight each year.

Keefe returns to the Thunder sideline for the 2019-20 season after serving previously in the same capacity for five seasons in Oklahoma City (2008-2013). During Keefe’s previous tenure with the Thunder, Oklahoma City advanced to the postseason five straight seasons, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2012.

Entering his 15th NBA season, Keefe spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before originally joining the Thunder, Keefe spent two seasons (2005-07) as assistant video coordinator for the San Antonio Spurs, winning an NBA Championship as part of Gregg Popovich’s staff during the Spurs’ title run in 2007.

Wilks moves to the Thunder’s bench after spending the previous seven seasons with Oklahoma City as a senior pro evaluation scout. Wilks becomes the second former Thunder player (Royal Ivey) to join the team’s coaching ranks.

He enjoyed a seven-year NBA playing career where he appeared in 233 games with ten different NBA teams. He holds career averages of 2.5 points, 1.2 assists and 1.0 rebound in 9.6 minutes per game.

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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