Vogel’s Initiative Pays Off
Above all else, Frank Vogel’s career has been about initiative.
As an eighth-grader, he spent hours learning to clean his teeth with a basketball spinning on the other end of the toothbrush, which earned him a spot on the Stupid Human Tricks segment of Late Night with David Letterman. As a three-year starter at Division III Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., he transferred to Kentucky despite having just one season of eligibility left to play as a walk-on and to plant the roots of a coaching career. He begged his way onto the staff as an unpaid assistant video coordinator, and worked his way up the ranks to become a head coach in the NBA.
His enterprising spirit paid off more than ever on Monday, when it was announced he has signed a contract extension with the Pacers. Vogel had gotten the job in the first place by circumstance, replacing Jim O’Brien at mid-season on Jan. 30, 2011. Taking over a team with a 17-27 record, he went 20-18 the rest of the season and made a solid showing in a first-round playoff loss to Chicago. The Pacers reached the second round last season after going 42-24 in the regular season, and are 20-14 heading into Tuesday’s game against Miami.
His .594 winning percentage ranks second in franchise history, ABA years included, behind only Larry Bird’s .687.
No doubt about it, Vogel earned this contact. He has a legitimate track record now, and while the length of the contract was not revealed, he has as much job security as an NBA coach can have. If it’s possible to designate an official arrival time for a coach, Vogel’s came on Monday.
Vogel is the eighth head coach hired by Pacers president Donnie Walsh, interim coaches excluded, dating back to Jack Ramsay in 1987. O’Brien, hired by Bird, is the lone exception.
“He definitely has a command of the Xs and Os,” Walsh said. “I think he has a personality that is easy for a team and yet he’s firm in the way he coaches. He has a very positive way of presenting things, even though he’s firm when he has to be.
“He sets up the practice himself and conducts the practice himself and has a clear idea of what he wants to accomplish. And he makes great use of his assistant coaches. He basically outlines what he wants to get done in a day and he gets through it.”