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Salutations, 55ers!* Had to make this Newsletter a shorty due to work concerns and the big news about the Pacers coaching change.* Still, there stuff to relate, so here goes.
First off the major stuff:* Monday night’s game with Toronto ushers in major changes for the Pacers. Wow!* Who’da thunk it?* Our boys now have a new coach!* It’s former Pacers assistant, Frank Vogel.* Yup, Jim O’Brien was let go in a surprise press conference given by Larry Bird that occurred at 4:00 P.M. Sunday afternoon So, sudden as a hammer drop, and after nearly 4 seasons of Jim O’Brien’s guidance, a new regime is now in place in Pacerland.* Coach Vogel (ironically, “Vogel” is German for “Bird”) is now at the helm.* What’s it all mean?
Our benefactor, Roy, maybe put it best:
“It’ll be a different atmosphere. Hopefully it’ll reenergize us to move forward.”
Roy, by the way, didn’t gloat or gush about O’Brien’s ouster.* None of the players did. Roy was quick to point out that O’Brien’s departure has to be hard on a basically good man.* Most people that knew Jim O’Brien liked and respected.him.* Roy went on to say:
“I hate to see anybody lose their job. It’s going to be on all of us to get this thing turned around.”
For those of you that didn’t see it, you can watch Bird’s press conference here:
The decision to replace Jim O’Brien seems to have been solely Larry Bird’s. In his press conference, Bird said he had felt comfortable with O’Brien when the*Pacers went out west for their recent road swing.* Indeed Bird gave a statement endorsing O’Brien and denying any plans to replace him just before the western road trip started.* While the road trip ended* 0-4 for the Pacers, Bird said that the team had at least been competitive in 3 of the 4 games and still had no plans to make any changes.* However, when the Pacers were badly manhandled at home by Orlando upon their return, Bird said that’s when he began to seriously think of replacing O’Brien.
After discussing his thoughts with the Pacers’ owner, Herb Simon, Bird was then given a green light by Simon to make whatever changes he thought best. Bird then opted to move forward without O’Brien as the Pacers coach.
Despite his past support, in his press conference, Bird did not hide his personal differences with some of O’Brien’s policies.* He expressed frustration that many of the younger guys on the roster weren’t getting much playing time. He specifically mentioned here the situations of Tyler Hansborough, Paul George, and Lance Stephenson.* Bird also expressed dislike for O’Brien’s policy of openly criticizing some of the youngsters in the press.* Bird stated that he didn’t do that when he coached and didn’t like that sort of thing when he was a player.* He indicated that he didn’t think it was an effective way to handle young players.* While Bird stated that he preferred not to second guess O’Brien and allowed that sometimes a “tough love” approach like O’Brien’s might work with some people, he didn’t think it was worked with the younger Pacers.* Here Bird specifically alluded to Roy Hibbert’s recent struggles.
With the coaching change, Bird stressed that he still expects the Pacers to be in the playoffs and expressed confidence that the players would accept Vogel and work toward getting the playoff goal accomplished.* Bird also expressed confidence in where the franchise is right now.
After this news blockbuster, fans were introduced to Frank Vogel, who is now the youngest head coach in the NBA, at age 37. Vogel began by saying that he wished he could’ve been accepting the job under different circumstances. He openly thanked Jim O’Brien for the opportunity and indicated that O’Brien said only positive things to Vogel about his new job. Vogel also stated that he likes the team and had plenty of confidence that he, along with his assistant coaches, could get some positive results immediately.
When asked about what kind of changes he would be making, Vogel dodged the answer, telling everyone to simply “stay tuned.” He did state that some things — such as substitution patterns — could and would see immediate changes.* He said that other changes he had in mind would be harder and take longer to implement.* These, he said, *would be worked on as the season progressed. Vogel made a point of mentioning that he wanted to use Roy Hibbert’s versatility more; wanted to get him back to playing high level defense; and “fix” his jumper.
Coach Vogel stated that he was looking for “a seamless transition” regardless of the circumstances. He said he had faith in the both the team’s youth and its veterans, and stated that he already regrets that he wouldn’t be able to play all 15 of the players on the roster.
A big question about the firing had to do with whether or not Vogel had sufficient experience to fill O’Brien’s shoes. Vogel responded by pointing out that he is not only in his 14th season, but had worked at all levels of game preparation. When asked if he thought head coaching was a different thing than assistant coaching, *Vogel said only, “That’s what they say.”.
So Who Is Frank Vogel?
Here’s a quick summary:
Frank Vogel is a native of the South Jersey town of Wildwood Crest.* He spent 3 years playing Division III basketball at Juniata College in New Jersey initially working towards a career in sports medicine. Vogel would have been a senior at Juniata in 1994-95, would have been the starting point guard there for the third year in a row, and would have spent his second season there as the team captain.*Instead, during his senior year he transferred to Kentucky because he wanted to become a basketball coach.
Vogel was a big admirer of Rick Pitino’s coaching and that’s what sent him to the University of Kentucky. He didn’t feel that staying at tiny Juniata College was the most efficient way to accomplish his coaching goal.* Vogel went to UK because he wanted to be around Rick Pitino, whose work ethic Vogel greatly admired.
“I knew if I just spent four years at a Division-3 school and graduated, that I’d probably have to work for 10 years at a small college level, probably the first couple years being part-time,” Vogel said. “I wanted to do basketball full time right out of college. I didn’t want to teach during the day and try to find some time to coach in the afternoon or something like that.”
So Vogel gave up his senior year at Juniata and went to Lexington, thinking if there was anywhere a coaching career could start, it would be there. It was a leap of faith, but it ultimately paid off.
When he got to Kentucky in August 1994, Vogel got off to a rocky start. His plan was to secure a position as a student manager for the basketball team, play JV basketball, and *continue to work towards a biology degree. Prior to coming, he’d sent five letters to the Kentucky basketball program trying to find some sort of a job. He’d got back five form letters essentially saying ‘no thanks’ but telling him to contact the University’s equipment manager to see if any help was needed.
Vogel had once met Pitino at a Five-Star basketball camp in Pittsburgh, but the closest thing to reassurance that Vogel got from him at the time was an “if there’s anything we can do, let us know, but keep calling the equipment manager.”
After making the transfer and still not landing a job, Vogel began have regrets, thinking *he’d thrown away his senior year.* However, he remembered his prior meeting with Pitino and decided to visit with him again. Pitino remembered Vogel from the camp. Pitino also remembered that at the camp, he’d introduced Vogel to his associate head coach, one Jim O’Brien.
“[Pitino] sent me to see Coach O’Brien,” Vogel said.* When he did, OBrien said, “You know what, I could really use someone to help me out with the video equipment. Let me talk to Rick and we’ll see what we can do.”
Even here it took Vogel a bit of trickery to land the job.
“I lied my tail off about being a computer guy,” Vogel says now. “I was not a computer guy.” I said, ‘I’m pretty good … not great… but pretty good with computers.’ I didn’t know anything about computers. But I just basically made it my life to become one with this video-editing machine that they had, which at the time was the most cutting edge stuff you could find.”
Suddenly, Vogel was in the door with Kentucky. He spent the 1994-95 and 95-96 seasons there as a student manager, all the while helping out O’Brien with video tasks. After graduating in 1996, Vogel spent the 1996-97 season as the team’s video coordinator.
Early in Vogel’s video career, O’Brien gave him some advice. “You should learn this [video taping] stuff because you never know if [Pitino’s] going to go to the NBA in a couple years, and if you can use this stuff you make yourself marketable for a job with him.” Well, it happened just like that,” Vogel said.
On May 8, 1997, Pitino left Kentucky to become the head coach of the Boston Celtics. About a week later, Pitino offered Vogel the video coordinator’s position in Boston, and at the age of 24, Frank Vogel was in the NBA.
In the ensuing four years as the Celtics’ video coordinator, Vogel learned a great deal about being a member of an NBA staff. His role on that staff changed however on January 8, 2001, when Pitino resigned from the Celtics. At that point, O’Brien took over as the Celtics’ head coach and he elevated Vogel to the position of assistant coach, giving him added responsibilities in working with players.
“[O’Brien] gave me the opportunity to take what I’d been studying in film for four years and start applying it and start being a teacher rather than just relaying information to them,” Vogel said. “And that’s what I’d been it for all along. I really enjoy teaching the game and sharing what I know, and helping prepare guys. I love trying to motivate and inspire guys to be better, and work on individual things. I’m doing what I love – not just basketball, but I love teaching the game as well.”
Even though Pitino’s resignation meant another step up the ladder for Vogel, it was among the lowest moments in his professional career. Another one came three years later, when O’Brien handed in his resignation to Boston on January 27, 2004.
“I thought I was going to leave right then too, because I didn’t want to work for anyone but him,” Vogel said.
When O’Brien was hired as the head coach of the 76ers on April 21, 2004 the Celtics were in the middle of a first-round playoff series with Indiana. Four days later, after the Pacers had swept Boston in the series, O’Brien wasted no time in starting to assemble his new staff.
“The day we got knocked out of the playoffs, [O’Brien] called [Boston Executive Director of Basketball Operations] Danny Ainge the next morning and asked for permission to talk to Joe [Gallagher], Lester [Conner] and myself,” Vogel said. “That night he took us and our families all out to dinner in limos and offered us jobs.”
Vogel’s new role on the 76ers coaching staff was to provide O’Brien with all the information he needed about an opponent in order to prepare for a game. He worked with the Sixers’ staff of advance scouts and video coordinators to put together a presentation, which was then put to use when the coaches arrived at the office at 6 AM on the day of a game. When game time arrived, Vogel was perched at the left-most seat on the 76ers bench, next to the scorer’s table, barking instructions to the players.
Hiring Vogel for the assistant coaching position at Philadelphia was an easy decision for O’Brien to make.
“Frank’s an extremely hard worker and has become very astute at breaking down teams and understanding what it takes to win and to grow a basketball team,” O’Brien said. “He’s graduated to where he’s an assistant coach. He’s very, very valuable to what we are trying to do. I hope as long as I am a head coach, I can have him beside me.”
O’Brien only spent one season at Philadelphia.* Although O’Brien took Philly to the playoffs at the end of the 2004-2005 season, he had differences with Philly’s GM, Billy King, and was replaced by Maurice Cheeks.* When O’Brien left, Vogel left with him. First Vogel worked as an advance scout for the Lakers during the 2005-2006 season.* Then, in 2006-2007, he did the same for the Wizards. *When O’Brien was hired by the Pacers in 2007, Vogel reunited with his mentor at Indiana as an assistant coach.* He toiled at this task until Bird lifted him to the position of interim coach.
So What Do We Look for with Vogel?
Well, as is evident from his biography, Frank Vogel is very much a Rick Pitino / Jim O’Brien protégé.* So don’t expect radical changes in how the Pacers run their offense or set up their defensive schemes, at least not right away.* It takes a lot of time to put a new offensive scheme in place and the Pacers can’t do that in the middle of an NBA season when they’re playing 2 or 3 games a week and can’t practice.* Also, it’s not exactly clear that Vogel has a radically new offensive system up his sleeve even if he had the opportunity to implement one. Expect the O’Brien system that’s in place now to continue with perhaps some minor Vogel tweaking. *The Pacers are still going to have a Jim O’Brien look to them for quite a while.
That said, with Vogel, we can expect to see some of the younger players getting more playing time.* Also, it is anticipated that there will be less turmoil in the rotations. This probably means less playing time for James Posey, Travis Ford, and perhaps Mike Donleavy. Bird made it clear in his Sunday press conference that he wants to see more from the younger players.* It is doubtful that a bright guy like Vogel will disregard this message.
And no, the goal of making the playoff hasn’t been scrapped.* That’s still very much on Larry Bird’s and Coach Vogel’s agenda.* This is Vogel’s opportunity to make a mark.* If he can get us to the playoffs, his interim position might become permanent.* Bird indicated as much in the press conference.
Tonight’s Game Frank Vogel could probably not have asked for a better opponent to begin against than the Toronto Raptors.* Toronto is dead last in the Atlantic Division with a 13-35 record.* Only Cleveland has worse numbers.
The Raptors are also in a massive slump. Saturday, they lost their 11th straight game to the Timberwolves. The 11 loss mark is their longest skid since the 2002-2003 season. In the game Saturday, their star, Andrea “The Magician” Bargnani, missed 19 shots – the most of his career, extended a January slump that he’s been in. Over his last 8 games, Bargnani is 56-for-159, or only 35.2 percent.* Catching the Raptors at Conseco tonight is a terrific break for Frank Vogel.
By the way, in the Raptors earlier home loss on Monday to the Grizzlies, the Raptors *ended a team shooting streak that began in February 1999.* Prior to Monday, the Raptors had played 986 consecutive games with at least one successful 3-point shot – a current NBA record.* Unfortunately on Monday the Raptors went 0-13 from 3-pointland.* It was *the first time in 12 years they failed knock in at least one shot from the arc.
The Raptors this record may not last very long. The Dallas Mavericks*have been quietly following along the whole time. The Mavericks’ 3-point streak started a day later, on February 27, 1999, and theirs remains current at 981 consecutive games. Dallas can break the Raptor’s record in Boston on February 4th. Kudos to Barb Somes! Before departing, I wanted to point out that 55er Barb Somes got some press Sunday for two reasons.* First, she was a major participant in T. J. Ford’s recent Coat Drive (T.J.’s a class guy!), donating 10 coats and netting in the process 20 Pacers tickets to our February 9th and 11th games.* Barb donated the tickets to the Carmel police.* Barb also got to comment on the coaching change at an interview on WTHR!* Here’s the article:
Kudos to Devin Ellis! There was a Devin Ellis sighting at the Pacer’s away game in Chicago.* Ellis is a familiar Area 55 loudmouth usually positioned in Row 8 in Section 102 waving a fathead with his gay buddy, Kyle Cranfill (not to imply anything by that, of course).* It was only a quick TV glimpse, but there was Ellis, beer in hand, in Pacers gear wearing his familiar drunken grin at the Pacers’ road game with the Bulls in the United Center.* It wasn’t Elvis, but it was still a sighting of .a well-known and dangerously criminal Area 55 reprobate.
Well, that’s it for now.* Let’s be extra-fired up tonight when Frank Vogel makes his debut.* It’s time for our Pacers to feast on some tasty dinosaur meat!.