Pacers head coach Frank Vogel had plenty to deal with during a second half slide that saw his team stumble to the finish line, but he overcame the disappearance of Roy Hibbert, the antics of Lance Stephenson, and a midseason locker room shakeup to somehow manage to guide this team to within two wins of reaching the NBA Finals.
It was far from a pretty end to a season where Indiana had the best record in the East and had extremely high expectations. But Vogel’s done a fantastic job under the circumstances.
Still, rumblings persist that he may have been coaching for his job during the Eastern Conference Finals. While it would seem short-sighted to blow out a coach with Vogel’s apparent talent, if the Pacers do decide to do so, there may already be a logical replacement in line.
From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
Yet there’s no escaping the fact that Vogel was awarded his current extension — which runs through the 2015-16 season — when team president Larry Bird was on a one-year hiatus. The fact Bird openly questioned Vogel’s player-friendly approach during the regular season has only added volume to suggestions that Vogel’s seat is warming.
And there’s more.
The whispers have already started in Indy about Bird turning to his old point guard, Mark Jackson, to take over. Jackson and Reggie Miller were the leaders when Bird was the Pacers’ coach … and Bird isn’t the only big fan in the organization of the man Golden State just ousted. Fellow Pacers exec Donnie Walsh is another huge admirer who has long maintained privately that he wouldn’t consider Jackson for the Indy job unless he had coached somewhere else first.
Vogel brought up a very good point during his press conference following the Game 6 loss.
“It’s bitterly disappointing to fall short of our goals, and it’s bitterly disappointing to lose to this team three years in a row,” Vogel said. “But we’re competing against the Michael Jordan of our era, the Chicago Bulls of our era, and you have to tip your hats to them for the way they played this whole series. And you just have to go into the offseason with the mindset that we’re going to reload, and we have a core, a system, a culture that’s going to give us a chance every year.”
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra discussed just how ridiculous the volatility of the head coaching position in the NBA has become.
“If there is speculation about that, that’s ridiculous, and that’s the sad state of our profession,” Spoelstra said. “There were 13 job openings last year, and now it’s reaching almost double digits again this year. It’s absurd.
“They weren’t anybody before that,” Spoelstra continued. “They’ve gotten better every single year. This year was probably the year they’ve had to deal with the most adversity, and they came out of it — every time you’re about to count them out, they would have a jump and prove you wrong. So hopefully, from a coaching standpoint, that that’s not the case.”
There will definitely be changes in Indiana this offseason. No matter what happens with the Heat, this Pacers team as currently constructed simply hasn’t been able to get over the hump for three straight seasons. Vogel should be safe, but we’ve seen solid head coaches replaced in the past. And Jackson’s prior relationship with Bird might make it more tempting than it should be to do so this time.