The Indiana Pacers find themselves slipping from being the best team in the East to possibly out of the playoffs due to a lousy few months. It’s not quite clear how much Frank Vogel is responsible for the parts he could control, but it’s clear that his job is on the line depending on how this season goes, forgetting all about how well he did in the previous ones.
Why fire a head coach who has a 167-100 record with the team (63.3%) and has gone to two consecutive conference finals with them? The NBA isn’t about stagnation, and the Indiana Pacers are included. Even if Vogel took over in the middle of the 2010-2011 season to help take the Pacers to the playoffs for the first time after four consecutive years of being left out, hitting a roadblock he seems to be unable to get this team past might determine his fate.
The cards he was dealt heading into this season aren’t great, and the Pacers aren’t likely to extend his deal before the season is over. Paul George is out for the entire year, and Lance Stephenson, the team’s second best offensive player and probably the only other guy who had the ability to create shots for himself has left, feeling disrespected by the organization. It seems more like a front office – player issue, but maybe a different head coach could have made things different and patched up the broken relationship.
But the doubts regarding Vogel came even before that. The Pacers might have put together 107 regular season wins over the last two seasons and have beaten the Miami Heat 7 times in three postseasons, yet Vogel, for all of the compliments he got for making the Pacers one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, couldn’t create a consistent enough offense to help his credibility. Some coaching decisions during games have always been questioned, and the way they collapsed at the end of last season, highlighted by Roy Hibbert all of a sudden becoming one of the worst centers in the NBA is on him as well.
It’s a cruel business to be an NBA head coach. It’s not just about relative success, but also about showing progress and direction. What was enough for the first two years turned into disappointment, even if the Pacers were the second best team in the East for a second consecutive season. Standards are raised, and with the Pacers in a difficult situation in terms of cap space, depth and especially offensive talent, Vogel seems less and less like the man who can make the most out of the new developing situation.
Making the playoffs will be a success in our eyes, but we’re not Larry Bird who will make the final decision about Vogel, who will start a season as a head coach four the fourth time. More than ever before, his ability to coach and especially somehow turn this unit into a consistent one on the offensive side will determine if he gets a new deal from the Pacers in the summer of 2015, or maybe it’s time for him to start polishing his job-interviewing skills.