The Los Angeles Lakers’ 2018-19 season ended on a sour note as the team missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. The Lakers had signed LeBron James during the 2018-19 offseason to emerge as one of the early betting favorites to topple the reign of the Golden State Warriors.
On Christmas Day 2018, the Lakers proved their worth as the team defeated the Warriors in their best game of the season. But during that game, the Lakers lost LeBron James to a groin injury and his absence the Lakers fell from being a playoff team to #9 in the West. James returned after a month but neither he nor the Lakers could recover. The Lakers ended the season with a 37-45 record, their best in six years but not enough to make the playoffs.
After the debacle, the Lakers fired head coach Luke Walton and earlier this month, Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka announced that the Purple and Gold have signed Frank Vogel as their new head coach.
“We are excited to add Frank Vogel as the next head coach of the Lakers,” said Pelinka. “Coach Vogel has a proven track record of success in the NBA Playoffs, and he reflects the core qualities we were looking for in a head coach – including, detailed game preparation, extreme hard work, and holding players accountable to the highest basketball standards.”
“I am very excited for this opportunity to join the Lakers, a prestigious organization that I have long admired,” said Vogel. “I look forward to coaching such phenomenal talent and bringing my strategic vision to the team.”
The 45-year old Vogel thus becomes the 27th head coach in franchise history and the 23rd head coach in the Los Angeles era. He enters his new job with a resume that includes an NBA career coaching record of 304-291 (.511) while coaching two NBA teams in a total of eight NBA seasons. Vogel was a four-time winner of the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month and was the head coach of the 2014 Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Early Coaching Career
Vogel began his coaching career as the video coordinator for the Boston Celtics under then head coach Rick Pitino. He held the position for five years before he was promoted to the rank of assistant coach. After Boston, Vogel became an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers before moving over to the Los Angeles Lakers as an advance scout in 2005-06. He did the same job for the Washington Wizards from 200607 before going back to coaching as an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers under former Boston Celtics colleague Jim O’Brien. When O’Brien was fired in 2011, Vogel was named interim head coach of the Pacers. During his tenure as interim head coach, he led Indiana to its first ever playoff appearance since 2006, thus earning Vogel the head coaching job. He was officially appointed as head coach of the Indiana Pacers on July 8, 2011.
After leading Indiana to back to back 2nd place finishes in the Central Division and consecutive trips to the playoffs, Vogel had a breakout year in 2013 when the Pacers won their first Central Division title since 2004. Indiana would finish the season with the 3rd-best record in the Eastern Conference at 49-32. They went on to beat the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks in the first two rounds of the playoffs before losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.
Indiana would return stronger the following season as Vogel would lead them to the best start in franchise history en route to being named as Eastern Conference All-Star head coach. The Pacers would end the regular season with a record of 56-26, good enough for top seed in the Eastern Conference. However, they would end up losing to the Miami Heat again in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Vogel signed a two-year extension with Indiana to remain until 2016. But during the first season of his extension, Paul George suffered that leg injury and Indiana missed the playoffs via a tiebreaker with the Brooklyn Nets. Vogel would lead them back to the postseason the following year but they lost in seven games to the Toronto Raptors during round one of the 2016 playoffs.
After the Pacers did not elect to extend Vogel’s contract, he signed with the Orlando Magic in 2017. Vogel ended his Indiana head coaching career with a record of 250-181 (58.0 %). He arrived in Orlando looking to give the Magic a boost as the team had not made the playoffs since 2011-12. However, Vogel couldn’t weave his magic in Orlando a the team won just 29 and 25 games in his first two seasons in Florida.
What Does Vogel Offer The Lakers?
Vogel brings defense to the Los Angeles table. In six seasons as NBA head coach of the Pacers, Indiana never had a defensive rating higher than 103.4 points per 100 possessions. In his five seasons as full-time head coach, the Pacers ranked in the Top 10 in defensive rating every season, leading the NBA in that category in two seasons. During those five years, Indiana’s defensive rating was 100.9 points per 100 possessions or fewer.
He was also credited for developing his players in Indiana. Vogel transformed Roy Hibbert to a Defensive Player of the Year material while also making George Hill a solid starter after starting his career as a role player in San Antonio. Paul George also developed into an all-around player under Vogel and even Lance Stephenson, whom he could be reuniting with in Los Angeles, emerged as a two-way player under Vogel.
While he wasn’t as successful in Orlando, Vogel helped Nikola Vucevic become a superstar and was instrumental in making the Orlando starting center a first time All-Star this season. Forward Aaron Gordon also had his best two seasons under Vogel while he also made the likes of DJ Augustin, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross become players who could step up and make big baskets.
The Lakers weren’t a really bad defensive team last season as they were in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency but Los Angeles was 21st in opponent points allowed per game. With plenty of scorers in the team led by James, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and even Josh Hart, the Lakers need to shore up their defense if they are to become playoff contenders this season. Many times this season, we saw the Lakers take build leads only to watch their defense collapse late in ball games.
Los Angeles also has plenty of young talent in the team, if they decide to keep it together. Imagine if Vogel can make the likes of Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball play defense. The Lakers certainly have more than enough talent to make the playoffs. However, Luke Walton never really pushed the right buttons. The Lakers are hoping Vogel could do that this season.
For sure, Frank Vogel’s work is cut out for him. There is plenty of pressure for the Lakers to deliver this season, especially with LeBron James around. James isn’t getting any younger too so if the Lakers want to win a title with the King, they have to do it now. It will be interesting how the Lakers are going to approach the free agency. They have been expected to go all-out to get a second superstar this summer to pair with LeBron James. It remains to be seen who they will get, if any.
Vogel also begins his tenure with some issues within the organization. Magic Johnson resigned as president amidst allegations that GM Rob Pelinka talked behind his back. That’s just one issue. And while it won’t be easy, the Lakers are getting a proven guy in Frank Vogel.