Without comment I am just going to highlight two quotes.
Positive. Intense. Funny.
Ask any Indiana Pacers player who has been on the roster for the past two seasons and those are some of the adjectives used to describe coach Frank Vogel.
It was a year ago this week that the Pacers organization changed. Former coach Jim O'Brien, criticized for his know-it-all attitude and failure to relate to younger players, had worn out his welcome. Enter Vogel, first as interim head coach, then as O'Brien's permanent replacement.
Heading into tonight's home game against New Jersey, Vogel, 38, is 33-24 since taking over for O'Brien on Jan. 30, 2011.
"It was a change of pace, it was a breath of fresh air from what we were used to, getting beat down a lot," swingman Dahntay Jones said. "He's developed his own style and tried to give guys encouragement and helped guys overachieve."
Vogel, a longtime assistant to O'Brien, exuded confidence at his introductory news conference. He proclaimed the Pacers would make the playoffs despite having a 17-27 record at the time.
"I think everybody was surprised with some of the stuff he was saying," forward Danny Granger said laughing. "He was talking about playing smash-mouth (basketball) and we were going to shock everybody. It worked and look where it's gotten us."
As talented as he was breaking down video or coming up with offensive and defensive schemes, one of Vogel's biggest challenges was lifting the spirit of his players.
Roy Hibbert was on an emotional roller coaster because O'Brien had a tendency to publicly criticize the young center. Tyler Hansbrough didn't know what his role was because O'Brien didn't think he could grasp the passing-game offense.
By contrast, Vogel spent more time telling his players what they were doing right instead of what they did wrong during his first month as interim coach.
"I think a lot of the young guys struggled with (O'Brien's) level of intensity and didn't necessarily know how to adjust on a day-to-day basis to it," veteran Jeff Foster said. "I'm not saying Frank isn't intense, because he is intense, but he's intense in a different way.
"He gives the young guys the feeling of confidence and I think a lot of them were missing that feeling of confidence last year."
Vogel wasn't afraid to use any means necessary to get his players to buy into what he was saying.
His best motivational tactic came in the film room. Vogel, a self-proclaimed movie buff, showed his team clips from the "Rocky" movies after he was named interim coach. He told the Pacers they were Rocky Balboa, the underdog who wasn't supposed to have a chance against the heavily favored Apollo Creed.
The movies don't stop in the film room for Vogel. It's not uncommon for him to loosen everybody up every now and then by imitating Vince Vaughn's character, Jeremy Grey, from the movie "Wedding Crashers."
Vogel's first significant challenge came when the Pacers lost six straight games and dealt with locker room turmoil after a game in Houston in early March.
"The biggest thing with Frank that I like is that he doesn't think he knows it all," Pacers President Larry Bird said. "Not that I know it all, either, but he'll ask questions."
The Pacers overcame their chemistry problems and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. They were competitive in four of their five games against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
"He believes in you," Hibbert said about Vogel. "I'd run through a brick wall for that man. He has a lot of confidence in us, and we're able to bring that to the court (as) opposed to how we did it before."
Vogel also has upgraded the coaching staffing, hiring Brian Shaw and Jim Boylen while retaining longtime assistant Dan Burke.
The Pacers (13-6) have built on their playoff appearance from last season.
"Frank has helped us change the culture," Bird said. "He's brought a fresh attitude in and he went out and got a hell of a staff. They work very well together."