Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel has recently been put on the hot seat.
According to ESPN.com, Frank Vogel is currently “coaching for his job” despite securing the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, dethroning the Miami Heat, along with 56 regular season wins. Everyone is well aware that the Pacers we are watching right now are not the same Pacers we saw before the All-Star Break. But this shocking turn of production cannot be pinned on Frank Vogel. According to the Indy Star, Frank Vogel was a serious candidate for coach of the year before the Pacers began struggling. Its just too unlikely that a coach who was considered Coach of the Year for 3 quarters of the regular season is now being blamed as the cause for Indiana’s decline. As shown by the varied performances so far in the playoffs (It took them 7 games to beat the 8 seeded Hawks), it’s clear that the inconsistency isn’t due to Frank Vogel; the Pacer’s struggles are directly linked to their players.
In the first two series games, Paul George recorded 24+ points, 10 rebounds, and 4+ assists. However, in the first game, he made 6 of 18 shots from the floor and 9/12 from the charity stripe. In game 2, George made 9 /16 field goals, 5/7 from three point range, and 4/4 from the line. Frank Vogel’s coaching style is not changing. His players’ efficiency is. He has groomed Paul George into a 2 time All-Star and MVP candidate and Roy Hibbert into an All-Star DPOY runner up. He transformed Lace Stephenson from a decent role player to an All-Star snub who can do it all. And yet, because his players have regressed, he is now being labelled as the cause of their failure. Now, there’s an easy explanation for this. You can’t make players on long term deals play for their jobs. And because of their talent, despite the inconsistencies, you can’t trade them either. And because of this, the weight of playing with a purpose is somewhat lost.
If you can’t blame the players, the coach is the next step down. Frank Vogel can do no more for this team. He has transformed them from mediocre, to very good, to borderline elite, to unquestionably elite. He calls the right plays. He gives his team the right mindset. All he can do is draw some lines on his whiteboard and the rest is up to the team he has dealt with magnificently.
Gregg Popovich, most recently named Coach of the Year, has been playing with timeless superstars who, just a few years ago, were timeless superstars as well. They won 62 games. Frank Vogel, now coaching one series at a time, is playing with All-Stars he groomed who, just a few years ago, were nobodies who had never seen what All-Star weekend looked when it wasn’t on TV. They won 56 games. The fact that the Pacers, despite their horrible late season stretch, are only 6 games back from the team that led the league in wins is a true testament to what Vogel has done for this team. Unlike the big names of Popovich, Spoelstra, Brooks, and D’antoni, Vogel did not have talent thrust upon him. He had to mold his players into the players they are today.
There’s no denying that the pacers are loaded with talent in their starting unit and the bench. Although talent does not directly translate into winsThis is a direct result of Vogel’s fantastic coaching methods and it has paid off. Without him, this team would still be relying on Danny Granger as their best player. But, when the stars don’t live up to expectations, is it really the coach’s fault?
Paul George has been through a lot this season. He has been named an All-Star starter for the first time in his young career, had an incident with a stripper, was caught in a rumored ‘catfishing’ scheme, and has suffered an all around regression since the All-Star break. Roy Hibbert has suffered a similar regression, but without the off-court incidents. This team is going to go as far as it’s stars take them. When they’re efficient (which is rare nowadays) they’re unstoppable. When they’re not, well, they lose to the 8 seed in game 1 of the playoffs. When watching him play, one would notice that Paul George normally settles for 3 pointers and contested jump shots. This isn’t a result of play call. The Pacers used to run an efficient offense, one highlighted by cuts to the basket for uncontested layups and exciting transition dunks. We were able to see that in the most recent game 2, but for the last part of the regular season and game 1, it was nonexistent. Paul George has cooled down. The 7-2 Roy Hibbert cant make a hook shot over someone half his size to save his life.
Playing against big men who can shoot the 3 draws Hibbert out of the paint, where he is clearly the most comfortable. Roy Hibbert will have to adjust to this, or Vogel will have to make the executive decision to bench him for the series. His offensive struggles or horrible, and clearly force feeding him in the post is getting nowhere. However, if this move doesn’t pan out, Frank Vogel will be in an even worse position, due to the scrutiny he will receive for benching their All-Star center. If they lost with Hibbert on the floor, and they lost without him, is it really fair to say that Vogel is to blame?
Being a head coach in this league is much more difficult than it seems. Being a head coach of a team with sky-high expectations is even more challenging, especially when you look at the predicament the Pacers are in right now.
But the Pacers still prevailed in the end and defeated the Hawks in 7 games. Should Vogel really be looked down upon for this?
You know who else won in 7 games?
The top 3 western conference seeds – San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles – along with the now-elite Brooklyn Nets.
I don’t see Gregg Popovich rumors saying that he is “coaching for his job”.
So Vogel taking all this flak for barely scooting by the Hawks in the first round is ridiculous. His accomplishments outweigh the minor speed bumps he has hit towards the end of the season and in this brutal first round.
Vogel deserves to be on the Pacers bench next season every bit as much as Gregg Popovich does.
And with that, the case is closed.