The Los Angeles Lakers season did not go as expected, and Frank Vogel suffered the first real consequences. So after rumors throughout the year that he would be fired, as expected, the team has finally pulled the trigger on the decision and will step away from the head coach with whom they won a title less than two calendar years ago.
Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story just as the final buzzer sounded on the team’s 33-49 season.
Vogel led the Lakers to the 2020 NBA Championship and is sure to be a contender again in future league training cycles.
– Adrien Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 11, 2022
I, uh, feel like he might find out before now, Woj! Especially considering the report came out before he did his post-match interview.
Vogel on reports he was fired: “I haven’t been told anything. I’m going to enjoy tonight’s game…and we’ll take care of tomorrow tomorrow.”
—Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) April 11, 2022
But even outside of the team’s disappointing season, the writing has been on the wall that the organization hasn’t been fully committed to Vogel for some time now. After whispering that they wouldn’t give Vogel an extension for the final year of his contract, or extend it by more than a year, the team announced their extension in a Friday night news bulletin, the first sign that it was something they were trying to sweep under the rug rather than a decision to celebrate.
Shortly after, the following (expected) report that the extension was indeed only for one year made Vogel (in effect) a lame coach. The fact that they’ve already hired an assistant coach that LeBron James likes in David Fizdale — whose prior small-ball offensive philosophies fit this list better than Vogel’s love of the high ball — didn’t do much— something to appease speculation. By mid-season, there had been several leaks that Vogel was set to be canned at various times, and that he would have already been dropped if Jason Kidd was still on his bench. The team couldn’t even wait until the end of the season to find out that their decision was already made, so it’s no surprise that the news came so quickly after its official end.
So, in short, it wasn’t exactly an unexpected end to the perpetually awkward arranged marriage between the Lakers and Vogel, who from start to finish truly never seemed like the team’s first choice.
Now, that’s not to say Vogel did himself many favors during a truly miserable 2021-22 campaign. The complete overhaul of the team’s attacking system so that there was no continuity for a roster that already lacked it may have been a retrospective mistake, but the precocious, dogmatic and often mind-boggling level of commitment of Vogel towards a big roster with DeAndre Jordan as a starting center in hopes of resuming the regular-season form the team found with forwardcourt Anthony Davis/JaVale McGee from the 2019-20 campaign, even though Davis had expressed his desire to play mostly center this season.
Instead, Vogel started Jordan for 16 of the Lakers’ first 23 games before playing him just 12 times in total the rest of the year before Jordan was cut midseason. The Lakers didn’t finally commit to short-ball until Vogel was sick with COVID-19, but he eventually started growing again at the worst possible time: in the team’s last significant game of the year, with Dwight Howard. and Avery Bradley starting alongside Russell Westbrook and the returning duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a starting group abomination, and that only a coach who cares so little about the level of shooting necessary for success in the 2022 NBA could to like.
As a result, the team lost to the Pelicans, sealing their fate. The game — complete with lethargy, lack of offensive creativity and a fourth-quarter slump — was essentially a microcosm of the 2021-22 Lakers.
Now, maybe some of the choices that Vogel was continually slammed for by his biggest critics were the front office edict, but that’s surely not the case. to have to be the reanimated remains of Jordan stumbling there if the desire was to go big early on, and the team didn’t to have prioritize shooting in their lineups as little as they did, as often as they did. They didn’t have to be so allergic to switching or directing riders to rim protection that didn’t exist in the small lineups. They do not have to have to play Avery Bradley this a lot.
This team – and, it turns out, Vogel in particular – simply never had enough room for error to compensate for all of their own interests, errors that undermined the team’s spirit and faith in herself to the point where they basically gave up around the All-Star Break, no longer committed to consistently playing hard, focused basketball for a coach they clearly saw as little more than a substitute teacher for his eventual replacement, a replacement that most of them won’t be around to see as a result of their own actions.
Now, to be as fair as possible to Vogel, the team’s wing injuries to start training camp have made it more difficult for the team to fully and effectively embrace the small-ball identity for which they have was designed, and Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis built this team. having only Talen Horton-Tucker and 36-year-old Trevor Ariza as wing options beyond LeBron deserves close scrutiny here as well.
Yet Vogel didn’t necessarily help him get off to a good start, even though there’s a deeper context to why he went in the direction he did, a direction that led him to take a metaphorical lunch at Chik-Fil-A right now. .
There will be (and there have been throughout the year) cries from the national media, and perhaps even some locally, that this is unfair. This Vogel got a bad deal. That he didn’t build this team and he certainly wasn’t leading the charge to trade for Russell Westbrook. And maybe the front office giving him a roster about as poorly suited as possible to play the style he chose put him off. On a human level, that was certainly not very considerate.
But, on the contrary, it is easier to say that the team should have let him go earlier. It was not the job of the Lakers team to rely on their head coach. Vogel’s preferences were never going to be at the top of the pole. That’s just not how the NBA works. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Rob Pelinka all wanted Westbrook and a team full of certified buckets. Fair or not, it was Vogel’s job to optimize this grouping. He didn’t, and now he’s gone.
Make no mistake: Vogel is a good coach, and his frenetic defensive style will always be something Lakers fans have to thank for the team’s dominant run to the 2020 title. But as the team leaned more towards a small-ball and attack-focused approach to save wear and tear on their stars as they aged, Vogel’s inability to schematically or rotationally figure out a way to train the team he had at instead of the team he wanted was ultimately a big part of his undoing, though roster decisions that were out of his hands played a part in those failures.
And, at some point, it was clear that the front office just wanted to do that. Better to rip the band-aid off than drag out the mess if they’ve already made up their mind. While they might have been able to wait until Monday — or at least until after Vogel’s post-match presser — every training decision this diet has made, from dropping Ty Lue, to forcing Jason Kidd to join Vogel’s staff, and even only giving Vogel a three-year contract before reluctantly committing only a year to it, showed just how fungible coaching is. So while Vogel wasn’t the only issue, firing him and getting a new voice is clearly the next step as the team tries to move on from a year everyone will want to forget.
With Vogel gone, it’s unclear exactly where the team will go from here and who will take the job, but Quin Snyder, Doc Rivers and other familiar faces are expected to be up for grabs. And as the hours, days and weeks go by, more information will surely be revealed about the reasoning behind this decision, but it always seemed inevitable that Vogel would be a scapegoat if this season didn’t work out. not. Front offices, however imperfect, do not lay off or reassign. All that remains to be seen is whether this coaching change can actually fix anything, or if much of the same institutional rot that has led to this consistently tricky season will also doom the Lakers’ next coach.
This developing story will be updated with more information.
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