By beating the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night, 128-113, the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the best record in the Western Conference heading into the All-Star break. As a result, the league announced that head coach Frank Vogel and his staff will be coaching Team LeBron in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.
James was chosen as a team captain on the same night, by virtue of being the leading fan vote-getter in the Western Conference. Teammate Anthony Davis will also be a starter in the game (although it remains to be seen if James will choose him, or if opposing captain Giannis Antetokounmpo will pick Davis first).
But whether he gets to coach one or both of his stars in the game, this is a deserving honor for Vogel, a man who faced rumors about his job security from the moment he has hired, speculation he nearly immediately put to rest by winning over the locker room with his ego-less, preparation-oriented and defensive-minded coaching style that has helped the Lakers to win a conference-best 36 games so far. His rotations have been solid, L.A.’s defensive game plans are mostly stellar and it would be hard to argue he hasn’t overall made a positive difference on this team’s fortunes.
After the win, Vogel — as is typical for him — wanted to make sure others got credit for the moment (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“Well, our coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. They really have. They hit home runs and grand slams every game with their game plan, helping me manage this group. Couldn’t be happier for those guys, but anytime we receive a reward or get recognized with something like this, it’s about team success. So it’s really kudos to everyone in our organization.”
The league’s press release went into more detail on how exactly they calculated that Vogel and the Lakers had clinched not getting a vacation over the break:
According to NBA rules, the first tiebreaker to determine an All-Star Game head coach is better head-to-head record. The Lakers have won both games against the Jazz this season and the teams do not meet again until March, giving Vogel the tiebreaker over Utah head coach Quin Snyder.
As a result, Vogel has earned the spot to coach Team LeBron over the 13 other eligible Western Conference head coaches. The Denver Nuggets’ Michael Malone was ineligible because he served as a head coach in last year’s NBA All-Star Game.
Each head coach in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game will lead the team that includes the captain from the same conference. Vogel and his staff will coach the All-Star team captained by their own player, the Lakers’ LeBron James.
And as Vogel said, this honor really is a credit to the whole organization, but that includes him, even if he doesn’t seem to want the praise. Still, he’s earned it, and so we’ll say as much in this space.
We’ll also note that if Vogel and the Lakers keep up this pace, he may just win his first Coach of the Year award, too. Not bad for a guy who was (at best) his team’s second choice this summer, but has gone out and proved he should have been the first call they made.