Why Firing Frank Vogel Makes Sense
We all know that Larry Bird is stubborn (he had to be to become as great as he did as a player), so it should come as no surprise that he has been uncompromising in his stance that “coaches can become stale”. There is no question that Frank Vogel had a successful tenure in Indiana, where the Pacers finished either 1st or 2nd in the Central division with the exception of last season (when their best player, Paul George, was out for nearly the entire year). He got them to within one game of the NBA finals once, and the conference finals another time. His best opportunity to knock off the LeBron-led Miami team was actually in the second round of 2012, when the Pacers were up 2-1 and had game 4 at home. LeBron and Wade had arguably their best game together (and equally arguably, their most important) as the Heat won, and took control of the series.
But what does that have to do with Frank Vogel getting canned? Well, it’s acknowledging that he was a good coach, but not a great one. He had some loaded (especially on the defensive end) teams that never could get over the hump. Larry Bird is interested in one thing: Championships. This is the same guy that gave himself 3 years as a coach to win a championship in Indiana. He took them to two conference finals (one was a 7th game against the Bulls), and the finals in 2000 against the Lakers. He was two games from the title, when he walked away. He is consistent with this standard, and has held himself to it. If getting to a game 6 of the NBA finals doesn’t cut it, then neither is a game 7 of the first round of the NBA finals.
Is it brutal? Yes. But it’s what he is trying to achieve in Indiana that people need to realise before they think this is an absurd decision. How many teams do we look back on, with special talents on the roster like Paul George, and think “they waited too long to bring in a better coach”? The Pacers changed their philosophy this season. They were no longer the defensive powerhouse from years past. Instead, they looked for a quicker pace and shots. Vogel, to his credit, did adapt better than most coaches would have, but they were still only the 7th seed, and they did lose in the first round to an fragile (from a mental standpoint) Raptors team. How would they have fared against the Cavs had they played? Merely being competitive is not an option for Bird. He wants the Pacers to be champions, and everyone is accountable on that quest for greatness.