(Photo via the Pacers Facebook page)
Frank Vogel was all smiley at yesterday’s press conference that officially welcomed him to Pacer Nation as the franchise’s new head coach. The comments from both him and his boss Larry Bird were quite dull as they are currently prohibited from discussing any of the league’s locked-out players, but there is 12 minutes worth of banter in the video below if you’re into that sort of thing.
The key question regarding this whole hiring process is what took so long?
Management, namely Bird, has continually stated that they wanted to make sure that Vogel could be surrounded by an experienced staff that could serve as a support system. Last year, there were locker room issues even after Frank took the reins, according to Bird. Such behavior must be constrained going forward for the team to make another jump so, before committing to a rookie head coach, Bird apparently felt he had to secure the services of a lead assistant like Brian Shaw, who has spent the last decade in a locker room alongside Kobe Bryant and shared one with Larry Bird as players in the late 80s/early 90s.
Vogel said the wait to get his interim tag removed didn’t bother him. He said Pacers executives kept him informed and were “very respectful” in handling the matter.
“I just think they wanted to make sure I had the best support system available,” Vogel said. “I think they believe in me tremendously. They just wanted to make sure I was in the best position to succeed.”
It has been speculated that longtime Los Angeles Lakers assistant Brian Shaw will be Indiana’s associate head coach. Bird wants to make sure Vogel has a top assistant who has “been through the ringer and been through the league.”
“I wanted to make sure he got an associate head coach who has experience,” Bird said. “We had some locker room issues last year at certain times after Frank took over, and we wanted to make sure we addressed that, not only with the coaches but with the players. We did with the players after the season. We had a lot of conversations about that. I don’t think we’ll have any problems any more.”
This makes sense.
Vogel strikes me as one of — if not the most — happy-go-lucky coaches in the league. While guys like Gregg Popovich and Stan Van Gundy give very few damns about players’ feelings and guys like Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni remain friendly but brutally honest, Vogel seems to be constantly uplifting and preaches a Little Engine That Could mantra. That’s all well and good, but Danny Granger and the other veterans left on this team have been around. They have a pretty good understanding of their team’s standing in this league. They know they’re not the Mavericks, Heat or Bulls. So hearing sugar-coated assessments, at least in public, from a head coach who seems to legitimately think they have the talent to beat a team like Chicago in a playoff series could become tedious. Perhaps Vogel will be more realistic when talking to the press this season, but people don’t usually change their character makeup in their late 30s.
He’s a former player and can talk to the guys about what it actually takes to battle in the NBA playoffs. He can talk about his days winning rings with Kobe and Shaq. He can talk about the Shaw/Shaq Redemption. He can talk about what it was like playing with the best SF of all time — ya know, the same guy who also happens to be the boss of everyone employed by the franchise. And he can tell them what it was like playing for the Heat, back when the recent expansion team’s “big three” wasn’t LeBron, Dwyane and Bosh, but Rice, Seikaly and Bimbo.
What it comes down to is that some NBA players, particularly young ones, which Indiana has in droves, are prone to be motivated by the positive reinforcement we are likely to see from the always-chipper Vogel. Others respond better to the “been there, done that” demeanor of a former player who has, like Lt. Col. Frank Slade, been around, ya know.
In putting the two together, Bird hopes he has created a good balance.