Most times, the “interim” tag for a head coach is the kiss of death.
It means you’ve taken over a team midseason already facing enough turmoil and losing that your predecessor was jettisoned. Usually management has another plan in mind but has to wait until the offseason to execute it. Often the players see the coach as a lame duck and don’t respect him, not following his wishes and at times just flat out ignoring play calls to try and pad stats.
But Frank Vogel made it work in Indiana.
He took over a floundering Pacers team mid-season, changed the attitude and vibe around the squad, went 20-18 the rest of the way, got them into the playoffs and there actually pushed the top seed Chicago Bulls (even if he ran his mouth a little bit in that series).
He earned a full season at the helm. Team President Larry Bird was impressed and told the Associated Press that Vogel would get the first and last interview when the Pacers start looking for a full time head coach.
“I think Frank did an excellent job, stepping in without the experience of a head coaching job,” Bird said. “The way he conducted himself, he brought positive energy to this team. We won more games than we lost. We did it with a young team, a team that’s trying to grow.”
The problem is Bird himself may not be back. Bird and Pacers owner Herb Simon are going to sit down in the next couple weeks and talk about Bird’s future and the direction of the franchise. After that comes the coaching search. If Bird does not come back and there is a new GM, all bets are off.
But if not in Indiana, Vogel deserves a shot somewhere. He said he figured out some things in his first half season.
“One thing I learned the last three months is that I can do this,” he said. “I’m confident in my leadership abilities, my management abilities, my coaching abilities. It’s been an honor to coach the last few months, it would be an honor to coach in the future.”