When the Indiana Pacers officially parted ways with Frank Vogel on Thursday, the move was met with general shock.
How could the Pacers let go of a 42-year-old coach that had just taken them to two consecutive conference finals just a couple years prior?
For those that aren’t aware, Vogel is clearly a respected coach around league circles. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who matched up versus Vogel for three consecutive years in the playoffs, wasn’t shy in voicing his displeasure over his rival coach’s firing:
“That’s very disturbing, actually. I’ve only been the head coach for eight years. What am I, the second-longest tenured? That’s a sad state of where the coaching profession is right now, and instability of organizations.”
Pacers president Larry Bird used the argument that most players start tuning out a coach’s voice after about three years on the job. While that may be true, most of Indiana’s roster wasn’t there just three years prior, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Only Paul George, Ian Mahinmi and George Hill remain from the 2012-13 roster.
With the NBA trending towards an up-tempo, smaller ball league, Bird wanted the Pacers to change up their style of play to follow suit. Gone were the days of Indiana’s bigger lineups which had an emphasis on defensive intensity, rather than offensive efficiency. As a result, former All-Stars on those squads such as Roy Hibbert were asked to take a walk. Heck, David West left the team last offseason due to Bird’s treatment of Hibbert.
However, one could argue the Pacers reached their ceiling with Vogel as head coach. While he clearly maximized the talent on his teams, Indiana was always one tier below those Heat teams earlier in the decade. Presently speaking, they’re not even in the second-tier of teams in the Eastern Conference.
With short-term fixes the rave in today’s sports leagues, Vogel lasted longer than his contemporaries on the job. He had been with the Pacers organization since 2007 and was promoted to head coach midway through the 2010-11 season. Prior to his firing, he had been head coach of the team for five-and-a-half years, the second-longest tenure of any coach in the Eastern Conference.
While the move was met with general negativity, it’s important to note that not only did Vogel receive more time on the job in comparison to his peers, but maybe he wasn’t the right coach for an offense-driven system. Indiana ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring in 2015-16.
As the Pacers move forward as an organization, Bird will likely look for a head coach that can truly maximize the talent on his roster from an offensive standpoint.