The Los Angeles Lakers have signed Frank Vogel to a three-year deal to be their next head coach, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Vogel is the franchise’s third new coach in five seasons, and fifth head coach since Phil Jackson retired from the team in 2011. According to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times, Jason Kidd will be one of his assistants.
The Lakers apparently want Kidd for player development reasons—mainly for Lonzo Ball— but Vogel’s hiring would seem to be a signal that the team is attempting to double down on their early defensive success from last season. In two of the six seasons Vogel coached the Indiana Pacers, the team had the best defense in the league, and the Pacers never finished lower than 12th in defensive efficiency during Vogel’s tenure, according to NBA.com.
The BBall Index’s metrics paint Vogel as having the “best defensive optimization rating in our database among all coaches with 2+ seasons coached since the 2013-14 season, with tanking years for all coaches excluded.”
Vogel’s two years in Orlando were more disappointing, but given all the roster turnover there, it’s somewhat understandable that those teams struggled — even if Steve Clifford led largely the same roster to the playoffs this season.
The first task for Vogel will be to find an offensive-minded lead assistant. Kidd is not necessarily that, and given Vogel’s struggles to optimize his teams on that end — among active head coaches, only Luke Walton grades out as worse at optimizing his players, according to the BBall Index’s models — he and the Lakers will need to try and find the best tactician available.
The elephant in the room here is how much of a debacle this coaching search was, what with the Lakers — possibly deliberately — missing out on Monty Williams, and then seeing their negotiations with Tyronn Lue go up in preventable and embarrassing flames. I’m not going to say that none of that matters now, but it’s what happened, and the team had to decide what the best way forward was in the wake of that.
And out of a group of mostly underwhelming second-tier candidates, Vogel has an argument as the best one. Regardless of how the team got here, this might be an okay outcome if they can learn from the mistakes that made the optics of this look so bad. Heading into free agency, they’ll need to. Over this summer, we’ll see if they have.