Frank Vogel — patient architect of the Pacers’ rise whose players couldn’t handle pressure last season, or young, in-over-his-head coach who should have been able to guide his roster through the past season with a steadier hand? That’s not an easy question to answer. How the Pacers perform in the coming season could very well prove to be decisive for Vogel’s coaching career, for better or worse. The roster Larry Bird gives him should factor into subsequent assessments of his coaching acumen, 12 months from now.

Larry Bird suggests the Pacers are moving on from Frank Vogel… but we’ll see

If the Indiana Pacers were a relationship conversation, it’d be the ole lukewarm, “I don’t really like you that much anymore, but I haven’t yet figured out quite how to tell you.”

I have no knowledge of Larry Bird and Frank Vogel’s texting habits, but on the outside, it feels like Frank is in the zone where Larry takes forever to respond, even though he has hasn’t turned off the “Send Read Receipts” feature so Frank knows he’s seen it.

Monday evening, Bird met with some of the Indianapolis media, a group that seems to mostly double as an unsolicited PR firm/fan club for Frank Vogel and the Pacers. When he was asked about Vogel returning after an 89-84 Game 7 loss to Toronto, the answer was “I don’t know.”

In a situation like that, “I don’t know” is often “no, but I’m not ready to tell you.” It’s important to be careful, though, because Bird appeared to be moving on from Vogel two years ago, only to then give him an extension. Bird isn’t overwhelmingly easy to get a read on. Still, it wasn’t a ringing endorsement, especially when he spoke about not wanting to keep Frank waiting because other jobs potentially existed.

Dogs have a more of an endorsement for cats.

First, Bird is not totally blameless in this endeavor to resolve the Pacers’ situation. Some of the free agent signings just haven’t worked out. On a seemingly annual basis, the Pacers’ bench needs some sort of revamp. Where he’s hit is where it’s most important to hit, and that’s in the draft. No one short of Larry Bird or Paul George’s family could have predicted PG would be THIS good.

Myles Turner was another pick that left people’s heads scratching until hair started falling out. Turner looks like he’ll become pretty damn good. Solomon Hill has been reasonably above average for a late first-round pick, though he probably has played his way out of Indiana in this flaccid free agent market.

All things considered, Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert were solid picks as well. Mining PG, though, buys you a lot of clout, especially as the Pacers have struggled to put together a consistent roster behind the starters.

However, if there’s one endearing thing about Bird as a GM, it’s that he has no inner filter to force things to go right because he can’t admit he’s wrong. Sensing a need for faster-paced play, Bird overhauled the roster, somehow shed Hibbert’s albatross contract and quirky personality, and moved to a sleeker, more offense-minded model.

It hasn’t worked, though, in part because he forgot to find a true point guard until the Pacers signed Ty Lawson late in the season, probably too late for any chemistry to be developed on a meaningful level.

Vogel looks like he’ll be the fall guy, and it looks like it’s probably time.


The Pacers, as has been their epidemic for three years now, seem to take a coin toss approach to how much they care on a nightly basis. While that’s also on the players, when it comes down to these things, coaches are often the fall guys before the players, especially in the NBA.

Vogel also has been maddeningly rigid with his lineups, something that was supposed to be evolving. The Pacers couldn’t box out a toddler against the Raptors, but arguably their best rebounder, Jordan Hill, was buried on the bench. The aforementioned Lawson wasn’t great in the playoffs, but prior to that, he was the one Pacer getting the team down the floor quickly, in the lane, and the ball moving early in the shot clock.

He too sat more than he should have.

More than anything, though, if you have to ask about guys’ effort and whether or not they’re packing it every game, a culture change is needed. The choices are either the star player or the coach, and even though there were moments when George was a little “too cool for the club” against the Raptors, for the most part, he was the one guy you could count on from an offensive perspective.

The Pacers didn’t underachieve or overachieve because we had no idea what we’d get from them. George was coming back from a horrid injury, which required the rebuilding of his confidence. How the team was to play offensively was completely overhauled with the signings of Monta Ellis and to a lesser extent, Hill.

Yet, the same problems exist that have for a few years: inconsistent effort; rigidity with the lineups, even when mired in failure; and at times, odd in-game decision making.

Much blame is to go around, but it’s easier to get a new lawnmower than it is to get a new lawn. The Pacers seem to be in “we need to talk” mode. We all know how that turns out.