Frank Vogel propelled the Indiana Pacers to the third best record in franchise history, secured home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs and continued to make them a defensive juggernaut this year. And yet he finds himself battling to save job.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the organization is not happy with the way things have been going in recent months and these NBA Playoffs will go a long way to determining his future.
The report read:
“Sources close to the situation said that Vogel, despite a 56-win season that secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, is ‘coaching for his job’ in the wake of a prolonged slide that has stretched into its third month.
“After Indiana's 101-85 triumph over Atlanta in Game 2 of the teams' first-round playoff series, sources told ESPN.com that coming back to win the series against the Hawks would not automatically ensure Vogel's safety.”
The frustration within the franchise stems from the fact that the team has struggled of late, winning just 16 of their last 31 games regular season games. Still, no matter how bad things got, there was a feeling that come the Playoffs, they would be able to knuckle down and figure out a way to get things done.
Then Jeff Teague and the Atlanta Hawks happened.
The eighth seeded Hawks stole Game 1 of the first round series against the Pacers, meaning they now have the luxury of home-court advantage in the tie. Sure Indiana came back to win the second game, but the damage is done and now Vogel is hanging on by a thread.
Perhaps what makes things worse is the fact the current situation is a complete contrast to the Pacers we saw at the start of the season. After all, they raced off to a 40-11 record and looked the powerhouse we expected them to be.
The defense was impregnable (allowed the 90.5 points per game - 2.7 points less than the second and 6.4 less than the fourth placed team), teammates were happy as Larry when the wins kept coming; and Frank Vogel was looking like an early front runner for Coach of the Year.
Now though, the defense is still a tough nut to crack but the honey moon period is over. The team looks a dejected side desperately searching for answers on the court. Plus, there have been several reports of in-house fighting behind scenes.
As you would expect, incidents like that worsened the team chemistry during an already testing situation and it has resulted in some players (mainly George and Lance Stephenson) playing a lot more isolation based basketball, in an effort to claw their team out of the offensive rut - Something which Roy Hibbert noted a while ago.
“Some selfish dudes in here," he said. "Some selfish dudes. I'm tired of talking about it. We've been talking about it for a month.
"We play hard, but we've got to move the ball. Is it obvious, or what? I don't know whatever our assist ratio, or whatever it is, is in the league, but it probably isn't up there. I'm really trying hard not to spaz out right now, but I don't know.”
Furthermore, the apparently sturdy ship is sinking and the team higher ups have little confidence the captain knows what he’s doing.
Larry Bird, the team President who let it be known that he backs Vogel "100 percent,” just a few weeks ago, did openly criticize his coach prior to making that statement, saying: “I’m sort of going to Frank’s side because he’s had so much success by staying positive. But I also think he’s got to start going after guys when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do.
"He has to stay on them. Whether you’ve got to take them out of the game when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do, or limit their minutes. I will say, he hasn’t done that enough.”
Not exactly a glowing endorsement, is it?
At the end of the day, Frank Vogel has to find a way to get the Indiana Pacers back on track and off each other’s throats. Even if it means benching key players like Hibbert who has struggled enormously recently, especially against the Atlanta 3point shooting. Otherwise he will soon find himself searching for a new post.
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