The Los Angeles Lakers have finally officially announced Frank Vogel as the 27th coach in franchise history. Two entire days have passed since it was first reported they came to agreement, and fans have innumerable questions. The Lakers have no excuse but to finally get around to answering a few of them.
But first, we should note that Vogel is a fine coach and, under different circumstances, would be a decent hire. He comes with questions of his own (his offensive scheme hasn’t been great and he has no real relationship with LeBron James), but for the most part, he’s fine. He’s aggressively okay. The problem here is the circumstances under which this hire took place, and the Lakers have to explain themselves.
Outside of a few bland statements — none of which had anything to do with the chaos Johnson’s resignation created — the Lakers haven’t said anything since Johnson resigned. But as much as we might want it, it’s extremely unlikely Jeanie Buss will sit in front of reporters and answer for her decision not to replace Johnson with a qualified candidate.
Instead, Rob Pelinka will likely be left to explain why he lowballed Tyronn Lue, tried to force Jason Kidd onto his staff, why Vogel is the right choice despite being — at best — their third choice, among other things.
And even if Pelinka is more likely to talk in this case than Buss, regardless of who speaks, the Lakers owe it to fans to answer legitimate questions about the direction and leadership of this franchise to give some clarity.
Going back to Kidd, the Lakers will have to field questions on his questionable past and why that was okay to overlook so long as he was hired as an assistant coach but not as the head coach — and then answer the obvious follow-up about what happens if things don’t work out with Vogel and Kidd is made the interim head coach.
Someone also has to explain why it is the Lakers are so dogmatic about only offering prospective head coaches three-year deals when the going rate for new coaching hires is generally five years. It’s perfectly fair to wonder whether this is tied to a growingly awkward relationship between the Lakers and LeBron James.
All these are perfectly standard questions given the circumstances, but more importantly than any one specific question is how important it is that someone from the organization’s leadership answer for, well, a fairly obviously lack of leadership.
Given everything that’s gone on, it’s borderline insane that no one has spoken up publicly to answer for all the chaos. Because no on has, that chaotic perception has only grown, the void has been filled with speculation about the team’s direction, and we might be at a point where no explanation functionally answers for how far beyond the Lakers’ control the narrative has gotten.
Vogel is very obviously not the Lakers’ top choice. He technically wasn’t even in the top three, based on their initial round of interviews (Monty Williams, Lue and Juwan Howard were the initial three candidates interviewed). Hell, by this line of thinking, Kidd (who will be working as an assistant to Vogel) was seen as a more viable candidate than the coach they would finally hire. Vogel is probably capable of joking about how not being the Lakers’ first coach doesn’t matter, but he shouldn’t have to.
An essential aspect of leadership is the willingness and ability to answer for mistakes or explain one’s own line of thinking that might have led to them. Either the Lakers don’t think they’ve made any mistakes, and this new status quo is not out of the norm, or they have made a few errors and must account for them. Either way, someone has to sit in front of the camera and field the aforementioned questions.
Based on what we’ve seen thus far, their move might just be to throw Vogel to the wolves just like they did with their players back during exit interviews. Words cannot describe how immense a mistake that might be, but then, the Lakers probably wouldn’t answer for that one, either.
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