For the third time in five years, the Los Angeles Lakers will go into the regular season with a new head coach. Just three years ago, it seemed like the Lakers had found their head coach of the future in Luke Walton, but once Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were replaced by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, Walton’s future became less certain.
Finally, after a season where every game felt like it could have been his last, Walton and the Lakers agreed to part ways in April. Now, veteran head coach Frank Vogel will step in and try to lead Los Angeles to their first playoff berth since 2013 after spending the last year away from an NBA bench.
While Vogel is well aware of the expectations that come with coaching a star-laden Lakers team, he told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated that he believes he has the full support of the front office, something Walton didn’t have in his final two years as head coach:
Make no mistake: Vogel understands the microscope he will be under. He knows coaching James will have its challenges, that he will have to make a strong connection with Davis, that any success the Lakers have will be measured against the success of the team they share a building with. He’s not oblivious to the public beating the Lakers front office has taken in the last few months, but believes he begins the season with the full throated support of everyone in it.
“I really do,” Vogel said. “I’ve established a great relationship so far with Rob Pelinka, Kurt Rambis, Jeanie Buss, the entire front office. I think we’ve really hit the ground running. Obviously this is a performance industry that we’re in, especially in terms of coaching, but I feel like they’ve settled on the right guy. I feel like they’re happy with their choice for coach and the relationship in terms of us being aligned and working together to build this team up to this point, it couldn’t be stronger. I anticipate that that will be the case going into the season.”
Considering Pelinka hired Vogel with the help of Jeanie Buss and Kurt Rambis, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The real question going into training camp is whether or not LeBron James will buy into what his new head coach is selling.
Fair or not, James has a reputation for being a coach killer and his first season in Los Angeles didn’t do anything to shift that narrative. Add that to the fact that the Lakers passed on his choice for the team’s next head coach, Tyronn Lue, and the dynamic between James and Vogel will be worth watching next season.
Things between Vogel and James might be good now, but will they be fine during the growing pains they’ll almost surely go through with an almost entirely new roster and system? We’ll find out soon enough.
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