“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” the Indiana Pacers president said to The Indianapolis Star with regard to Vogel’s future. “What I don’t want to do is leave Frank hanging — there’s other jobs out there he could get.”
Certainly. Vogel is lauded as one of the game’s brightest minds, and will be a serious candidate for coaching vacancies of the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, and Sacramento Kings. He might even have the job of his choosing – that’s how highly the 42 year old is thought of throughout league circles.
Bird obviously understands that, and the thought of giving Vogel ample time to land on his feet after choosing not to re-up his expired contract is an admirable one. But any goodwill presented by that notion was gone once Bird, for reasons unknown, told reporters on Monday evening it was his plan going forward.
Plus, Thursday’s press conference made it abundantly clear that Vogel wasn’t prepared be dismissed by the Pacers. Bird indirectly admitted as much when he vexingly and disrespectfully recalled the deciding conversation he had with his longtime coach early this morning.
To recap: Bird let it be known on Monday that Vogel wouldn’t return, confirmed that imminent news three days later, and basically told assembled Indianapolis media that Vogel begged for his job before being rebuffed.
Don’t feel too bad for Vogel, though. Bird also made sure to say he’d give the unemployed coach a sterling reference if and when he is asked for it by opposing teams.
All this begs to wonder whether Vogel would reciprocate with regard to Bird and the Indiana organization. No coach deserves to be dragged through the mud for several days on end before being pushed deeper into the muck, but especially one of his esteem.
This is a guy who led the Pacers to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Any delusions those teams could really beat LeBron James and the Heat in a seven-game series were always just that, and hopes of a playoff appearance in 2015-16 seemed as much, too. But there was rebuilt Indiana pushing the two-seeded Toronto Raptors to a do-or-die game last week despite an overmatched roster and playing a style that had only fully materialized over the final few weeks of the regular season.
Only those within the franchise know the quality of Vogel’s performance on the sidelines this season. Perhaps the players never quite connected with their coach. Bird suggested as much, and even said he wished the Pacers had adhered to early-season plans of full-time small-ball.
That stuff matters, of course, and so does countless more minutiae to which only Bird, front office higher-ups, and those in the locker room are privy. Perhaps Vogel’s coaching job in 2015-16 wasn’t as good as it seemed from the outside. Bird would know. But what’s definitely the case is that Indiana didn’t show any grace whatsoever throughout this unnecessarily long and transparent process.
Bird insists the Pacers’ job is one of the most attractive available, which really could be accurate. Just don’t ask Vogel to defend his former boss’ justification as to why that’s the case.