After 250 regular-season wins and two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, Frank Vogel – whom many NBA insiders consider a top-notch coach – will not be returning to the Pacers. Team president Larry Bird fired the 42-year-old Vogel on Thursday after nearly a decade of service to the franchise.
And no one should be surprised.
“When we heard Bird’s comments a few days ago about the uncertainty about whether Frank was coming back and continuing to reiterate that he wanted the team to score more points and play faster – I mean, the writing was on the wall,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think at this point, the way the NBA coaching business has gone over the last few years, let’s stop being surprised when a coach with a terrific resume and record, a winning coach who’s been to the playoffs and conference finals, gets fired. It’s not always about that. In this case, it was just about a philosophical difference between Larry Bird and Frank Vogel about how to approach the game, how to play offensively, how to play faster and score more points.”
The Pacers scored 100+ points in all three of their first-round wins against Toronto and 89 or fewer in three of their four losses, including Game 7.
Even though the Pacers had parted ways with several key pieces in recent years, and even though Paul George was returning from a catastrophic injury, Bird said that the team needed a new voice.
That may or may not be true.
“The idea that players start to tune out a coach after three years, I don’t agree with that,” Berger said. “I felt like Larry was – I don’t want to say he was second-guessing himself, but he spent a lot of time explaining and justifying why he fired Frank Vogel, as opposed to the reasons why he would look for a different coach. So now the Pacers turn the page and they look ahead and look for that new voice that Larry’s looking for, and well see whether or not that new direction is actually a better direction or not.”
Bird has yet to name Vogel’s replacement, though several names are in the mix.
“You start with Nate McMillan, who’s already on the bench as an assistant,” Berger said. “If you remember when Frank Vogel was hired, he was elevated from assistant to head coach, so that is something that Larry has done in the past and he’s comfortable with. Nate McMillan worked hand-in-hand with the Pacers GM, Kevin Pritchard. They had a pretty good run in Portland together. So that’s one possibility.”
Another possibility is Mike D’Antoni, who is currently the associate head coach of the 76ers.
“Look, if you want to play fast and score a lot of points, you might as well interview the guy who basically invented the offensive system that about 27 or 28 teams in the NBA are running some form of at this point,” Berger said. “So there’s a few names that are in the mix.”