Frank Vogel and the Pacers have had talks about an extension, the coach said to Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star. No deal has been worked out just yet, and when asked if he would like to have an agreement in place prior to the season beginning, Vogel said, “We just have to see how it goes. I want to be here forever. That’s my thing. I’m interested in being here long-term and when the right time comes, hopefully we can achieve that.”
Vogel is entering the last season of his deal, and one would think that a 167-100 record over four seasons, including four trips to the playoffs and two consecutive conference finals would be enough to guarantee job security. But last year’s Indiana squad that began 25-5 limped into the playoffs and the Pacers seemed badly overmatched by the Heat despite extending them to six games.
A big point of contention involving Vogel during the playoffs was his use of center Roy Hibbert. The big man didn’t match up well with the Pacers’ first round opponent, the Hawks, nor with the Heat in the conference finals. Both teams employed smaller lineups which made Hibbert a liability on defense when trying to match him up with smaller, quicker centers and stretch-fours. Vogel received quite a bit of criticism for not figuring out a way to use Hibbert’s size to his team’s advantage, and allowing their opponents to dictate the style of play that Indiana used.
The concern for the future is if Indiana’s collapse was a fluke, or if there are deeper concerns in the Pacers’ locker room. Vogel has always been considered a player’s coach, and is not a staunch disciplinarian. This was a role that was filled by former assistant Brian Shaw, who left prior to last season to become the head coach of the Nuggets. Chris Huberty of SI.com points out that Shaw frequently played “bad cop” with the Pacers players when it was required, and that new assistants Nate McMillan and Popeye Jones didn’t assist Vogel in that capacity.
If the Pacers and Vogel aren’t able to hammer out an extension prior to the season, it could only add to what looks to be a difficult year ahead for the franchise. They will be without the services of Paul George for what is likely the entire season after he broke his leg during a Team USA scrimmage. The Pacers will also be without Lance Stephenson, who signed a free agent deal with the Hornets this summer.
The Eastern Conference will be extremely top heavy this season with the Cavs, Bulls, and Wizards all looking extremely formidable as training camps begin. The Pacers aren’t in the discussion as a title contender without George, but still should have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot, even without their best player. But if being 4 for 4 in playoff appearances wasn’t necessarily enough to garner long-term job security, it will be interesting to see what the sentiments of Indiana’s front office are regarding Vogel if the Pacers struggle mightily without George and Stephenson this season.