Nobody inside or outside the Lakers organization expected Frank Vogel to be back as coach next season — and that includes Vogel.
The only question was when he would get fired, not if. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Lakers could go with the NFL-style “ax the coach the day after the season ends” move.
Frank Vogel, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to the 2020 NBA championship, has coached his final game for the organization, a decision expected to be shared with him as soon as Monday, sources told ESPN.
The Lakers’ search for his replacement is expected to be expansive and lengthy — without a clear-cut front-runner, sources said.
This news broke after the Lakers won in their season finale against Denver, 146-141 in overtime. Vogel was asked about it when he met with the media.
“I haven’t been told s*** and I’m going to enjoy tonight’s game, celebrate what these young guys did in terms of scratching and clawing and getting back in this game and getting a W, and we’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow,” he told reporters during his postgame media availability.
Vogel was not the cause of the Lakers’ problems this season, but he wasn’t the solution, either.
Vogel is a defensive-minded coach who led the Lakers a title playing that style — that was a tall, long, defensive Lakers squad (3rd in the league in defense) that generated enough offense with shooters around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In the two years since that title, the Lakers moved away from that model and sacrificed defense and athleticism for more offensive-minded players, the most prominent of those moves was trading a series of young role players for Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers handed their defensive coach a roster of players that couldn’t defend. Vogel’s rotations didn’t help matters at times, he seemed to be throwing everything he could against the wall to see what would stick. He seemed to lose the locker room.
The question for the Lakers heading into their next coaching search is what are they willing to offer a coach?
Three years ago, the Lakers were well down the road with LeBron-backed Tyronn Lue, but when it came time to make an offer the Lakers insultingly low-balled him — reportedly offering in the three years, $18 million range (a championship coach of Lue’s stature would traditionally draw a five-year contract in the $35-$40 million range). Plus, the Lakers demanded to pick some, if not all, of his assistant coaches (they wanted Jason Kidd on the bench next to him). Lue walked away from the deal, eventually signing with the Clippers (he will draw Coach of the Year consideration for his work getting the other Los Angeles team into the play-in this season). The Lakers signed Vogel, who accepted their terms.
This time around, are the Lakers willing to pay and give some control to a coach with more stature in the league? Among the names rumored to be tied to the Lakers are two established, quality coaches rumored to be in trouble if their teams do not make deep playoff runs: Quin Snyder in Utah and Doc Rivers in Philadelphia. While sources have thrown cold water on the Rivers’ to the Lakers idea when speaking to NBC Sports, the basic idea for both men — or other established, quality NBA coaches such as Terry Stotts — is that the Lakers will need to offer at least four guaranteed years plus a team option, and at a higher salary number than they did before. The best coaches will want their voice heard in player/personnel discussions as well.
Or are the Lakers still going to treat the coach as an interchangeable piece? If so, they will get an interchangeable quality coach.
There are a lot of questions about the Lakers’ coaching search, starting with will it begin on Monday.