New Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel has had his fair share of heartbreak courtesy of LeBron James.
As head coach of the Indiana Pacers, Vogel lost to James’ Miami Heat in three consecutive seasons in the playoffs, despite holding series leads in two of the matchups and home court advantage in one. Suffice it to say, being able to team up with James instead of fruitlessly continuing to challenge him should be a great joy for the new Lakers head coach.
At his introductory press conference on Monday, Vogel indicated that the positive vibes are mutual between him and James, who he already connected with after earning the job (quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet):
“I have spoken to him after I was hired, not before. And the nature of that conversation, and you’ll learn about me, is most of my conversations with our players will remain private. But I will say that it was very positive. There’s an excitement about what we can be, and what we can accomplish. I’m looking forward to getting started with him.”
Obviously, Vogel has to be excited about coaching his new star player. Even after a down year, James remains one of the top five players in the NBA, and Vogel is convinced we’ll see him at that level to start the season:
“Well, obviously, the the injury was the big thing (last year). He started the season being the same LeBron James that we’ve seen for many, many years: dominant, ready to take a franchise deep into the playoffs, and to compete for a championship. And, obviously, that that got derailed with his injury, and what everybody has to understand is, when you have an injury, you have the time that you missed, which your team is limited by, and then when you’re first getting back out there, it’s takes some time to get your legs back under you.
“The whole second half of the season, he was not the LeBron James that that we know of, so that part is behind us. We’re going to work our tails off this season. And I expect this to see one hell of a bounce back here from LeBron James.”
Developing a connection with James should be Vogel’s top priority, especially after last year revealed the limitations of Luke Walton’s effectiveness when James was never full sold on Walton’s leadership.
James noticeably distanced himself from the head coach hiring process, but it was good to see him present at the press conference as an implicit show of support for Vogel. Vogel’s remarks served to confirm that even if James isn’t fully on board, he’s willing to give Vogel a chance and ready to get started working together.
The more illuminating part of Vogel’s comments is his desire to keep his conversations with James private. Fans and media will always want to know the inner details of what goes on with the Lakers, and it’s definitely better to hear those directly from the source instead of through outside leaks. But there is a certain measure of confidentiality that Vogel and his players should be able to operate under in order to build trust, and it’s important that Vogel begins to develop that trust as soon as possible.
Vogel is under a great deal of pressure to start his tenure in Los Angeles. So far, at least he’s saying all the right things.