The Lakers reportedly agreed to terms with Frank Vogel to become the team’s new head coach over the weekend, but there hasn’t exactly been a great deal of hoopla about the decision. Vogel was — at best — the team’s third choice after Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue, and the ineptitude displayed by the front office during the process hasn’t shined the most positive light on Vogel.
That’s probably unfair to Vogel, who doesn’t bear any culpability for the drama of the coaching search. All he did was interview to be head coach, impress the Los Angeles front office during that sit-down, and earn the job of his own merit. As a result, former Laker greats like Shaquille O’Neal and Robert Horry believe fans of the team need to give Vogel a chance before dismissing him simply because of the manner in which he was hired (via Broderick Turner of The L.A. Times):
“Give him a chance,” O’Neal told The [Los Angeles] Times on Sunday. “That’s the least people can do. He did a good job in Indiana, right? So give him a chance to see if he does a good job with the Lakers.”
Horry reiterated that sentiment, though he was a little less complimentary of Vogel’s pedigree.
“Give the man a chance, because there really is no right coach out there,” said Horry, who won three of his seven NBA championships with the Lakers. “There is no Phil Jackson walking through that door. There is no Pat Riley walking through that door. So nobody is ever going to be happy with what coach they get. Vogel might be the perfect coach. Who knows?”
What’s interesting is neither player is explicitly endorsing Vogel, but rather saying he deserves a chance to try to succeed. No one really seems to believe that Vogel was a perfect candidate for the position, and that’s a sentiment that comes through from the Lakers’ process.
The team initially perceived of Vogel as a possible assistant coach, not even including him in their first round of interviews. He only received an interview for head coach once Lue was no longer an option, and even then, Los Angeles didn’t exactly demonstrate supreme faith in Vogel by giving him a three-year contract.
So long as the Lakers are viewing Vogel as a compromise option, or even a stopgap, it’s hard for the fanbase to be excited about the hire, which might be why former players feel compelled to speak out on Vogel’s behalf to provide support when the front office isn’t.
Then again, perhaps the greatest show of support for Vogel would be for the front office to upgrade the roster and give him more to work with. O’Neal certainly believes that more talent could change the way we view Vogel’s tenure.
“The Lakers need some players, because it takes talent to win in this league,” said O’Neal, who won three of his four championships with the Lakers. “What if the Lakers get Anthony Davis? So if the Lakers get some players, Vogel could be all right.”
Vogel will probably be on the hot seat from the moment the season starts, particularly with a former head coach in Jason Kidd already on his bench, so any backing from the Lakers community is likely appreciated. It would mean a lot more, however, if the front office ended its vow of silence to echo that approval. Until they officially announce his hire and speak to the media on the record for the first time in over a month, they won’t be able to do so.