THURSDAY, 10:35am: Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard took a poke at Stein’s report, saying on Twitter that Bird’s “sources say” Vogel’s job is safe.
WEDNESDAY, 11:01am: Sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com that Pacers coach Frank Vogel is “coaching for his job” in the playoffs, even with a year left on his contract. A first-round series victory against the Hawks wouldn’t necessarily be enough for Vogel to ensure his return for next season, Stein hears.
Dissension has marked Vogel’s locker room during the team’s second half slide. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote overnight of a fight in practice last week between Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner, and Stephenson has drawn the ire of other teammates lately, as Stein documents. The soon-to-be free agent and George Hill had to be separated on the bench during a loss late last month, while Stein hears that Roy Hibbert‘s recent remarks about selfish play were essentially directed at Stephenson. Still, Stephenson is a favorite of president of basketball operations Larry Bird, and Bird and Stephenson have indicated they have mutual interest in a new contract.
There appeared to be a slight chance that Bird would replace Vogel before the playoffs and take over the coaching duties himself, though Bird expressed full confidence in Vogel during the last week of the regular season. Bird was somewhat critical of Vogel’s style in March, but he added that he was beginning to warm to the coach’s more positive approach. Stein passes along reporting from ESPN’s Chris Broussard, who hears from sources who point to the absence of former assistant coach Brian Shaw, now the Nuggets head coach, who often played the “bad cop” in the Pacers locker room, pushing players when Vogel wouldn’t.