The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t exactly a pillar of stability when Frank Vogel signed on to become their head coach last summer. They didn’t have a clear power structure in the front office, they hardly had a training staff and they didn’t have Anthony Davis — at least not yet.
What they did have, though, was a once-in-a-generation talent in LeBron James, and that alone was enough for Vogel to fully buy into what the Lakers were selling. It took over a year for Vogel to reap the benefits of his unwavering trust in his star, but he was finally able to on Sunday, when he hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in his 19-year coaching career.
Vogel has coached a few really talented players in his lifetime, but he’s never coached anyone like James before, and he made that much clear after Sunday’s game.
“He’s the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen — and if you think you know, you don’t know, okay?” Vogel said of the 2020 Finals MVP. “Until you’re around him every day, you’re coaching him, you’re seeing his mind, you’re seeing his adjustments, seeing the way he leads the group, you think you know; you don’t know.
“It’s just been a remarkable experience coaching him and seeing him take this group that was not in the playoffs last year, the roster was put together overnight, and just taking a group and leading us to the promised land, so they say. He was terrific the entire season leading us, and I can’t say enough about him.”
That respect was mutual in the first year that James and Vogel worked alongside each other, which led to one of the most drama-free championship runs of James’ career, if not the most drama-free. The fact that the Lakers won 17 of their first 20 games probably helped James and Vogel get off on the right foot, but that type of early success is also usually indicative of a healthy locker room.
James might not have everyone’s vote in the G.O.A.T. debate, but it’s clear he has the support of at least one now-championship-winning head coach.