Welcome Back to Indiana, Frank Vogel
The Indiana Pacers play the Orlando Magic to open up 2017, the first time they’ve faced Frank Vogel, their old coach.
The Indiana Pacers were still recovering from the extended fallout of the Malice in the Palace when Frank Vogel took over on January 30th, 2010. The team had yet to recovered from that night in Auburn Hills, struggling in the six season since then to build anymore than a squeaky clean image after jettisoning many of their more talented (and sometimes troubled) players for lesser parts.
But they had Paul George, Danny Granger, and bright hopes for the future.
From the first season Vogel took over, the Pacers were in the playoffs. That year they would be nothing more than a thorn in the Chicago Bulls side, but they were on the verge of a special run.
Though Granger’s health began to decline, PG had Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson with him, while George Hill and David West joined the fold soon after. It took time to develop, but these five players formed the core of Vogel’s teams in Indiana.
There were two appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals, as well as an early round exit when they pushed their then-rival, the Miami Heat, to the limit. Things fell apart towards the end, but those three seasons were the best Indiana had since the Brawl, and arguably since 2000.
The Pacers ended up going 281-211 as Indiana’s coach, taking the team to the playoffs in all but the one season when Paul George broke his leg, and even then, Indiana only fell one game short.
Yet somehow, despite all this, despite dealing with a roster in transition last season and getting the Pacers to the playoffs again (nearly beating the Toronto Raptors), Larry Bird found it fit to let Vogel go and replace him with one of his own assistants.
That wouldn’t be such a strange thing if Bird didn’t bring up his magical 3-year rule — the idea that players tune a coach out after three years. The logic doesn’t hold up when you promote the fired coach’s long-time assistant.
That isn’t to say Vogel was perfect. From the outside looking in, it seemed he struggled to handle some of the team’s personalities, and the offense was rarely better than average. However, he got results.
No matter the reasons, fans should be grateful for the Vogel era of the Pacers, and the success he brought with him.
But that’s the past. Now, Frank is with the Orlando Magic, today’s opponent.
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Almost everything has changed since the last two seasons of the Vogel era. David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, and Lance Stephenson have new teams, as well as bench players like Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi and Solomon Hill. Indiana has tried getting smaller and faster to adjust to the new realities of the NBA, a departure from Vogel’s style. There isn’t anything left from that era, other than the franchise star, Paul George.
Plenty of people have asked if Vogel would have done any better if he was coaching this Pacers team, but I don’t know if he would have. The roster construction is a hurdle for any coach to conquer and as good as Vogel was in Indiana, he would have been disarmed of the players that had worked in his system. This isn’t so much to blame Bird for the team’s issues as much to say the bets he made haven’t paid out.
McMillan is judged against Frank’s success, fairly or unfairly. Even though the roster is gutted of the players and style that brought Indiana back to competing with the NBA’s best, McMillan is expected to produce a team that can challenge for a spot in the Finals, and at minimum, the Eastern Conference Finals.
Frank now has another challenge to overcome with the Magic, as their roster needs its own fine tuning before they can reasonably expect to be in the playoffs. For what it is worth, though, Vogel is 15-19 so far.
Both coaches face a set of obstacles in front of them, few of which are their own doing. Hopefully, both are given time to find success instead of worrying if they are on the hot seat. A win today for either coach will help take off that pressure — for now.