Editor's note: Conrad Brunner's entire cover story on Frank Vogel will be posted online later this week — we've given you an excerpt. In the meantime, you can find a copy of NUVO's print edition at any of these locations.
With the Pacers in the midst of winning their first nine games, by far the best start in franchise history, they prepared to play host to the Chicago Bulls, one of their chief rivals in the battle to dethrone the mighty Miami Heat. Mike Dunleavy, now a member of the Bulls but a former Pacers player from the O'Brien era, was asked by a reporter from The Chicago Tribune
about Vogel and referred to him as "one of the premier coaches in the league."When told of this comment, Vogel was genuinely flummoxed. His face flushed as he searched for a response.
"I'm an aspiring young coach," he said.
Always has been.
Growing up in Wildwood Crest, NJ, a small vacation town on the Jersey Shore, real life was far different than portrayed on the MTV series. His father published a local real-estate guide, his mom worked the reception desk at Wildwood High during the school year and waited tables at one of the tourist joints in the summer.
"It was a complete working-class background," Vogel said. "We had enough to be happy but not a lot in excess."
Frank played soccer and basketball but was not even close to a star athlete. His chief moment of celebrity came in 1986 when, as a 10-year-old, he appeared on the David Letterman show's "Stupid Human Tricks" segment. His talent was spinning a basketball on one end of a toothbrush while brushing his teeth with the other.
Fifteen minutes of fame? More like 30 seconds.
"I was the least recruited of the starting five on our basketball team," he said. "I was never the man, the guy. I was just always a humble part of it, just part of the team, but I was a point guard, a captain, a leader, a lead-by-example type of guy, make sure you're touching all the other guys, keeping everybody else working as hard as you're working."