by Adam Shear
I woke up Sunday morning erupting in glee to a text I received from a friend simply stating "O'Brien fired. Happy Sunday."
I jumped for joy on my bed like Brittany Spears in Crossroads (pshh... I don't want to hear it, I was cool enough to have a girlfriend in seventh grade, deal with it) and claimed it to be the happiest Sports Sunday for me since the Indianapolis Colts hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
Then I calmed down and read the Indianapolis Star report claiming that assistant coach Frank Vogel would be promoted to head coach on an interim basis.
WAIT WHAT? Yes, the guy that used to go out early before games and put weird things on Danny Granger's legs to help improve his shooting technique... That guy was named the head coach of the Indiana Pacers.
The guy who didn't have a WikiPedia page until basically 5 minutes ago...Literally check the published date at the bottom here.
So, what do we know about Coach Vogel. Well we know he just graduated high school last May with a honors diploma and lost prom king honors to the captain of the football team. All jokes aside, he's been in the league for over 14 seasons, with his highest position being an assistant coach.
While experience can be critical in some instances of the coaching, I believe it is largely overrated. Everyone has to start somewhere and Vogel's opportunity just happens to be with an Indiana Pacers team that is in desperate need of change.
Things were not going to change with Voldemort (aka Jim O'Brien) at the helm. Listen, "he who must not be named" killed the confidence of Roy Hibbert to the point where he might as well have had a lightning bolt permanently scared onto his forehead.
Alright, I'll back off on my Harry Potter comparison, but the truth of the matter is this team had little to no confidence and a lot of that had to deal with O'Brien. He treated the media as a middle-man to crush the hopes and dreams of the young fragile ego's of the Pacers and "that ain't cool."
Trust me I'm 21, if someone with a higher position in the media kept telling me how awful I was; 1) I'd start to believe it 2) I would struggle and try to overcompensate for my inabilities. The millennials are a weak generation, we do not want to admit it, but if you want to fight about it we can send you some mean spirited messages via MySpace.
Let's get to what matters though, the basketball stuff, that is what this blog is about right? Yes. So here goes.
Frank Vogel is 2-0 and right now he has the best winning percentage in NBA history for any head coach...ever(Suck on them apples Phil and Red). While the two wins were over quite possibly the two worst teams/rosters in my recent memory and therefore they seem somewhat skewed. However, two wins are two wins (Cliche FTW!). This two game winning streak seems minuscule, but this Pacers team needed anything for a confidence boost (and a pat on the behind from preteen heart throb Vogel won't cut it).
Sure the Pacers beat two bad, check that terrible, teams that they probably would have beat with O'Brien, but what the unofficial sponsor of hair club for men couldn't do was game plan the way the way Vogel did/does.
While I'm as high on Vogel right now as Kid Cudi is on a regular basis, I want to put in perspective is what there is to like about Frank the Tank, and what reasons there for fans to be worried about so here goes...
1. Confidence is key (heard sports fans love these cliche things)- Within two minutes of Frank Vogel being hired as the interim coach, the complete confidence of the Pacers hit a new dynamic. All of a sudden they went from being Tito to Janet (only the Celtics, Heat, Lakers, and Spurs have Michael status right now). Will they have their moments where they are like Janet at the Superbowl? Certainly. But now will they have games where everything is in rhythm (nation)? I believe so, because this team can have its "platinum" performances, due to a renewed confidence.
2. Politicians get votes, not critics - One thing that O'Brien did that really cost him his J-O-B (<- Everyone's favorite pun) was bash his players in the media. Larry Legend was not feeling the vibe from Jim, so he said his good bye.
"I never did that when I was a coach and I didn't like it when I was a player," Bird said. "If you look at some of our players, especially Roy, he looks like he's down. He's not running around, not having a good time like he was earlier. Obviously it's affecting him."
Flash to Vogel who said in his press conference:
"We've got a good basketball team," said Vogel. "I'm taking over a good basketball team and I've got a great deal of confidence that this thing will turn around right away."
AHHHHH! It's like the gates of heaven just opened up and a white dove wearing a Pacers P landed on Frank's shoulder.
Vogel even backs up his confidence in games. In his first game at the helm, he left the hot hand of Pacers rookie Paul George in the game during the final stretch. That people, is something Obie would have never done. Vogel also let young players Hibbert and Darren Collison "do thier thing" and it paid off.
Man, a person who says he is going to do something and actually does it... I wonder if Frank is a republican or a democrat?
3. Rotation, rotation, rotation - Every Pacers fan and their unaware mother could spot that something was wrong with Jim O'Brien's rotations and inconsistent minutes on the Pacers roster (don't believe the mother thing? ask Michele Shear).
In his first two games as the coach Vogel has already established a clear first and second unit. Group A includes: Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Granger, Josh McRoberts, and Hibbert. Group B: AJ Price, Dhantay Jones, P.George, Tyler Hansbrough, and Jeff Foster.
There are four reasons this is a fantastic move by Vogel. 1) It allows players to build more chemistry by creating a group of five players who can gain familiarity with one another. 2) These are the ten players (with the exception of D.Jones who will be replaced by Brandon Rush once he recovers from injury) who should have been receiving minutes all season. 3)Each unit has scoring options. Group A gets its points from Granger, Hibbert, Dunleavy, and Collison. Group B primarily relys on George and Hansbrough, with some contributions from Price. 4) No more watching the blob slowly slime his way up and down the court, while occasionally raising his arms to clank a three pointer off the back iron. Yes James Posey, I'm calling you out...expect a violently worded MySpace message soon.
4. Live and let Lance - Vogel has already been quoted several times saying that Summer League Superstar Lance Stephenson will soon get the opportunity to play. Lance is a physical guard who can beat up his opponent (who hopefully will not be his disgruntled girlfriend) and score at will. I have a feeling this will help improve an Indiana offense that has struggled recently.
1. Things have certainly turned over - While Vogel helped coach the Pace to two wins, they were about as pretty as Gary Busey in a polka-dot bikini. Indiana is playing a little looser under Vogel, but that does not necessarily look as good as it sounds. Right now the team appears more confident when shooting the basketball, but you have to actually keep the ball in order to get shot opportunities. I believe this will tighten up once these units get more used to one another. Remember this team is pretty much going through it's second training camp right now.
2. De-Fense needs painted - If the Red Auerbach led Boston Celtics were a well oiled machine, this Pacers team is a 1976 AMC Pacer on defense right now.
Against the Cavaliers last night (who get my vote for worst team of all-time) the Pacers were unable to get stops against the weak Cavs. If Cleveland was not spending their time at the free-throw line, then they were hitting uncontested jump shots.
The Pacers are very capable of playing good--even great--defense, but they need to go back to the schemes they were using at the start of the season when they were one of the top five field goal defenses in the league. They need to do this while still playing disciplined. Easy task right? Sure. Hey I'm just an analyst. If I say it is an easy fix, then it's an easy fix. #ignoranceIsBliss
To my count that's four positives to just two negatives, but just to make sure...
So yes, I do like what coach Vogel has done so far, and I do believe that the offensive and defensive lapses can be fixed. Can it be done in time to secure a spot for the playoffs though? In the words of Vogel "Stay Tuned."