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Thunder: Donovan's coaching staff is great for team and for him

Let's start with an admission. 

(They say confession is good for the soul, right?)

Back in April when we found out that the Thunder had hired Billy Donovan as its new head coach, I termed it a risk. He has no head coaching experience in the NBA. He has not been around the pro game in decades.

Risk, risk, risk.

Said so right here on my blog. 

But I also said that Donovan would be smart to surround himself with assistant coaches with some strong NBA roots. They could offer support. They could help where needed. They could fill in the blanks where Donovan had questions.

Well, bully for Donovan and the Thunder. They have built a staff that can do those things and so much more. 

Monday, the team formally announced Donovan's assistants. Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic will be staying. That much we knew. Ditto for Monty Williams and Anthony Grant coming. But the fifth assistant had only be speculated on. Turns out, it will be our old buddy Mo Cheeks.

So, let's break this down.

Williams and Cheeks have both head coaching experience in the NBA. Williams spent the past five seasons in New Orleans where he turned the Pelicans into a playoff team. He helped develop Anthony Davis. He made a winner in a city where, frankly, many wondered if there could ever be a winning NBA team again.

And Cheeks, of course, we know as a former Thunder assistant who left to take the head coaching job in Detroit. While that stint didn't end all that well, Cheeks has nearly a decade's worth of head coaching experience. And he was clearly a locker room favorite during his previous time in Oklahoma City.

Those two guys alone would make for a heck of a coaching staff.

But then you add in Grant, who was a longtime Donovan assistant at Florida before taking over at Alabama. He was fired after this last season, but all signs point to Grant being a coach cut out of Donovan's mold. He like analytics. He relates well to players. He is low in ego.

Grant will be a good fit in Thunderville.

Much like Bryant and Rajakovic already are. The book is thin on Rajakovic, who moved to the Thunder bench just last season after coaching the D-League team when it was still in Tulsa, but we know lots about Bryant's impact on the team. He's the big man coach, so when you think about how much Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka and Mitch McGary have progressed, Bryant has been a big part of that. I suspect the Thunder would like to see what he can do with Enes Kanter, if the team can agree to a free-agent deal with the big man.

ā€œIā€™m really excited about the vast experience that this staff will bring to our team,ā€ Donovan said in a statement announcing the staff.

The statement went on to say, "The group delivers an incredible set of individual skills, knowledge and background to the table, and I believe that the impact of their collective efforts will be very beneficial as we continue to build the tradition of the Thunder.ā€

This staff would be big-time for any head coach, but for a guy who has yet to coach his first NBA game? It is exceptional.

This bunch is great for the Thunder and for Donovan.

Related Photos
<p>Former Thunder assistant Maurice Cheeks has been key to the development of point guard Russell Westbrook. [AP Photo]</p>

Former Thunder assistant Maurice Cheeks has been key to the development of point guard Russell Westbrook. [AP Photo]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4915bf99e93f3aef6a46f05b9d568d51.jpg" alt="Photo - Former Thunder assistant Maurice Cheeks has been key to the development of point guard Russell Westbrook. [AP Photo] " title=" Former Thunder assistant Maurice Cheeks has been key to the development of point guard Russell Westbrook. [AP Photo] "><figcaption> Former Thunder assistant Maurice Cheeks has been key to the development of point guard Russell Westbrook. [AP Photo] </figcaption></figure>
Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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