For several weeks, if not months, there were rumors that Frank Vogel was on the hot seat – that if the Indiana Pacers did not beat the Miami Heat in the playoffs and advance to the NBA Finals, he would be fired.
Well, they’re called rumors for a reason. The Pacers didn’t beat the Heat, and Vogel is still gainfully employed.
“I wasn’t worried about my job security,” Vogel said on The Morning Show. “As soon as the first report came out, Larry Bird came down and made sure that it was clear that that was not going to be an issue, so I wasn’t worried about that. But if you’re 81-0 and you lose a game, you’re going to worry about your team. So when you struggle like we did down the stretch, certainly there was some concern, but we were able to stabilize it, right the ship and get to the conference finals.”
The Pacers lost to the Heat in six games.
There’s not a whole lot of shame in losing to LeBron James and the two-time defending NBA champions, but there was reportedly a great deal of in-fighting among the Pacer ranks during the final months of the regular season and early in the playoffs.
Not so, says Vogel. In fact, it may have been just the opposite.
“When teams are put together, every GM – every front-office guy in the NBA – (will tell you that) character is pretty important, but sometimes that can be overlooked,” he said. “We have a very high-character team that Larry Bird has put together here. You sometimes don’t realize that when everything’s going your way. We had a couple years that were pretty solid without a lot of issues, and then when you encounter some turbulence and some adversity, that’s where I think having high character people in your organization or on your team really shows up. And I think that’s why our team was able to fight through some of the issues we were having.”
Some of those issues involved Lance Stephenson, who reportedly got into a fist-fight with Evan Turner during an April practice. Stephenson also had a hot-and-cold postseason, sometimes looking like a star-in-the-making and other times looking immature and unprofessional – like when he blew in James’ ear.
“I’ve heard him compared to the Dennis Rodmans of the world, and he’s really nothing like that,” Vogel said. “It’s something that bothers me a little bit. If you’re around him every day, you realize he’s a really good dude. He works as hard as anybody on our team and he cares as much as anybody on our team and he fits right in. He’s a good one.”
But where do the Pacers go from here? After all, they’ve lost to Miami in the playoffs three straight years. They need to make big changes, right?
“We’re going to continue to just try to build our team and become more experienced each year,” Vogel said. “We’re still a very young team. Hopefully we can come back intact the way we were this year. We may tinker with (the bench), but hopefully we can come back and achieve the level of success we had this year and give ourselves another chance (to get to the Finals).”