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Five things to know about Frank Vogel

Frank Vogel during a NBA Cares charity event at Algiers Point, Feb. 14, 2014
 U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class William Benson / Public domain

For six consecutive seasons, the Lakers have missed on the play-offs. Adding LeBron James in the summer didn’t bring the golden touch. Even he couldn’t break this depressing streak for one of the games most iconic teams. It is, therefore, not surprising that the franchise is inviting in a new head coach, as they parted ways with Luke Walton who led three consecutive losing seasons.

Vogel seems a safe pair of hands. He has a proven career as a head coach. He has enjoyed successful stints with the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic. Despite his pedigree, you sense he faces an uphill struggle to bring the Lakers back to the heights of success they expect.

So, is the man up to the job? Here we answer the question: who is Frank Vogel?

He began as a video coordinator

Frank Vogel got his start with the NBA as a video coordinator for the Boston Celtics. He served in this role from 1997 – 2001 before getting promoted to assistant coach. He then moved to Philadelphia and Indiana as an assistant coach before being promoted to the position of head coach with the Pacers. He is known to the Lakers because he has acted as a scout for the team, along with time as a scout for the Washington Wizards.

What does this tell us about the man? It shows he earned his stripes from the bottom up. He has plied his trade in the NBA, starting out on the bottom rung and having his talent-spotted along the way. Working as a scout makes him uniquely aware of the need for balance in a team. Sure, he will have an eye on the stars of the game but he will also understand the need for those quiet men who fulfil a pivotal role in holding the team together.

He’s a family man who values his friends

Vogel makes it clear that although he is dedicated and will devote hours each day to the success of his team, he will eat dinner with his family each evening. He is married to Jennifer and has two daughters, Alexa and Arianna. Balance is key in any professional’s life and Vogel has this. It will help him keep perspective when the times get tougher. 

He is also a loyal friend. He shares value for his family with his buddy and Celtics coach, Brad Stevens. Stevens and Vogel have been friends since they both live in Indianapolis, where Vogel coached the Pacers and Stevens was at Butler University. When Stevens took on the Celtics job in 2013 he was clear that he relied on his friendship with Vogel. They would enjoy long dinners where they talk through the ups and downs and all the intricacies of coaching at the top level. Stevens claimed to ask Vogel the most basic of questions but Vogel was always there with support. Stevens describes Vogel as “awesome” and declared that he “love(s) the guy.”

What should we learn from this? Well, he has a knowledge of the game that other top coaches are keen to tap. Second, his people are his people – he is loyal and when you fly in his orbit he is there for you. This is top-quality in a coach.

He learned his game from Rick Pitino

When you play college ball but you know you wouldn’t have a career beyond, you have to start thinking about alternatives. Sure, Vogel earned his degree in biology but he was certain he wanted to stay in Basketball. What did he do? Well, he started writing letters to former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino – later meeting him at a basketball camp. The connection was made and Vogel moved to Kentucky to act as a student manager for the team and helped them on to win the national championship. His career in basketball coaching was cemented and he followed Pitino to the Celtics.

This story tells you much about the quality of the man. He understood his limitations but devoted himself to his passion. Having that something it takes to write to an established coach and win his favour demonstrates perseverance and just the right amount of cheek. You don’t get if you don’t ask – right?

He knows how to win

Vogel might be glad to be on the same side as Lebron James – whose Miami Heat beat Vogel’s Pacers two years running in the Eastern Conference finals. It could be that the pairing of James with Vogel brings both their strengths under the Lakers’ franchise. Vogel needed LeBron’s attacking edge to overcome Miami. The Pacers were set up as a powerful defensive force, leading the NBA in defence for both seasons. However, they didn’t have the attacking power to turn over the scoring machine of Miami.

His coaching style is something different

There is a mixture of freedom and accountability in Vogel’s style of coaching. If the player has a vision of how the game can be improved, go for it and give it a go. Yet, if it doesn’t work out expect to be held to account by the head coach. When you are leading a talented squad, you can see how respecting their feel for the game and knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses will pay off. It is also a case of “give them enough string” – as if they don’t deliver then they can only blame themselves.

Although Vogel is known for his defensive teams, he has enough attacking power to counter his natural bias to one side of the court. It is likely that Vogel will design a space-and-pace system around James – and hope he can provide him with some three-point shooting.

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