Frank Vogel has long looked up to Phil Jackson, who he calls the GOAT of NBA coaches. When he was head coach of the Indiana Pacers, Vogel tried to soak up as much of Jackson’s approach as he could through a proxy, Brian Shaw, his lead assistant at the time.
Vogel had a chance to interact with the man himself a few years later, which has only served to deepen his appreciation for Jackson. It also has enhanced Jackson’s influence on Vogel’s coaching style.
In 2016, the Pacers fired Vogel, and New York Knicks were looking for a new head coach. Jackson was the president of basketball operations for New York at the time, meaning he conducted the interview with Vogel. Based on how Vogel relayed the story to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, it sounds like it was a dream come true.
The interview began at the hotel, then continued to dinner at a small pizza restaurant in Venice that Vogel is still trying to find his way back to. The next morning they had breakfast and spent five to six more hours on a whiteboard.
“We talked about everything,” Vogel said. “From life to our families to coaching, X’s and O’s on the court and offensive systems, whether it’s a triangle or another system, defensive coverages.”
The Knicks ended up hiring Jeff Hornacek while Vogel spent two seasons in Orlando. Missing out on the role in New York didn’t dim Vogel’s enthusiasm for Jackson or the lessons he took from their time together.
Although he didn’t get the job, it was two days he’ll never forget.
“I was raised in the Bobby Knight era of coaches,” Vogel said. “You know, MF-this. MF-that. And Phil never did that. I just felt like his approach was — and I’m by no means a Zen guy — but the calm mental adjustment is something that I try to always carry with any conflict or any adversity my team faces.
“I always admired that approach, letting guys play in. Not bailing teams with timeouts, letting them play through things, figure things out themselves.”
Vogel’s demeanor on the sidelines resembles that of Jackson. He definitely leaves his seat for than Jackson ever did, but he is generally calm and unflappable, a philosophy he apparently took from Jackson. Vogel also keeps his rotations fairly tight, another Jackson staple; unless it’s garbage time, the Lakers deep bench is never expected to get on the floor.
As a fan, it is very much appreciated that Vogel strayed from the Bobby Knight school of coaching. His current approach is far more pleasant to watch. It also seems to have worked for the Lakers, who immediately bought into Vogel’s vision for the team on both ends of the floor en route to the best record in the Western Conference. That level of success on the Lakers bench is one more thing Vogel and Jackson have in common.