If you don't feel good about Frank Vogel and his new, full-time gig as the Pacers head coach, there's a pretty good chance you lack a beating heart.
Don't we all love a good underdog story? Don't we like it when somebody takes a leap of faith, like the one a young Vogel took when he left Division III Juniata to talk his way onto Rick Pitino's Kentucky staff, and makes it work? Isn't there something to be said for coming into an adverse circumstance, doing an audition when nobody thinks you'll get the part and absolutely nailing it?
"Interim" is actually a Latin term meaning, "You'll just keep the chair warm while we look for a more established guy like Rick Adelman." But Vogel didn't conform to the role of temporary caretaker. He walked onto the big stage and talked almost immediately about changing the team's personality and making the playoffs. He acted like he had nothing to lose, and he walked away the biggest winner of all.
"I never thought (moving from Juniata to Kentucky) would lead to this, this quickly," Vogel said Wednesday. "I never thought I'd be in pro basketball. I just wanted a career. I would have been happy at any level of basketball, as long as it was full time."
Vogel did an amazing thing last season that went well beyond the 20-18 regular-season finish and one of the most competitive five-game playoff series in NBA history. He made people -- players, fans, everybody -- feel good about the Indiana Pacers. He was a hurricane of fresh air, and while he could be a little over-the-top at times, his earnest bravado resonated with his players and with a city that had stopped paying attention.
Here's how transformational Vogel was. If he hadn't come along and guided the Pacers to the playoffs, there's every reason to believe Larry Bird, David Morway and everybody else on the staff would have been sent packing.
This is a guy, an interim coach, who entered Game 5 of the Bulls series by saying, "If we win this game, we'll win the series."
Don't change, Frank.
Do. Not. Change.
There was a lot of consternation, or at least confusion, about the extended time it took for the Pacers to do what we all expected them to do weeks ago. But it didn't seem to bother Vogel -- although, let's be honest, if it bothered him, do you think he'd say it? He would have run with the bulls in Pamplona for this job. Naked.
"I never felt disrespected or anything like that," Vogel said. "I never really felt certain I had the job until three days ago, but there was never a point, either, when I thought they were close to giving it to somebody else. I always felt like the front office here was communicating with me constantly and looking out for me."
The timing was odd, but it made sense. More than anything, Bird wanted Vogel to upgrade his staff. That's not a shot at the assistants who were let go, but it's hard to argue that Brian Shaw -- unofficial, still, but official enough -- isn't a major upgrade.
When Bird became coach, he surrounded himself with two top assistants, Rick Carlisle and Dick Harter. He wanted the same for Vogel.
"Look, I did this and wanted him to do the same thing: give himself a chance," Bird said. "Frank is a better coach than I ever thought about being, but we can't have those locker room issues again, and we won't.
"That's not the head coach's job. That's the assistants'. Those are fires they've got to put out right away. Communication is a must -- with some players, daily. If they sense a player is down or isn't doing what he needs to do, it's the assistants' job to address it, and if it continues, then take it to the head coach. Assistants have to take a lot of tough stances. So you have to have a staff that all the players respect."
A two-year deal with a team option for a third isn't exactly an overwhelming commitment, but Vogel was in no position to make demands.
At this point, everybody in the organization is on a relatively short leash, most notably Bird, who said he's going "one year at a time" and giving Herb Simon the option of firing him if the owner sees fit.
"I'm beyond a three- or four-year contract," Bird said. "Herb has been too good to me and my family for 11 years. I want him to be able to go in another direction whenever he feels the time is right."
So finally -- finally -- Frank Vogel is an NBA coach.
He just doesn't have any players.
And he has no idea when he'll have a chance to get to work.
They take their lockouts seriously in the NBA. Before Wednesday's news conference, Bird and Vogel had to be briefed on what they could and couldn't say. Already, Bird has been warned by the league for something he said in a recent interview. On the team's website, there is nary a mention of a single player. It's impermissible for Pacers employees to so much as re-tweet a player's tweet.
"Sorry I couldn't say much," Vogel told me later.
He probably should have reprised his "Stupid Human Trick" of spinning a basketball on a toothbrush. But that might warrant a fine from the commissioner.
At least now the Pacers have a worthy and inspiring coach, a young guy who came from nowhere and, we dare say, passed the audition.
All he needs is some players.