Despite his name trending on Twitter after basically every single loss this season, heading into Thanksgiving weekend with the Lakers at 10-10 overall and in seventh place in the Western Conference, there had been no credible reports that Frank Vogel was on the hot seat. There have been lots of criticisms of his lineups and other decisions, sure, but no real reports or whispers that his job was in jeopardy.
At least until now. Because on Black Friday, Hall-of-Famer and longtime NBA insider Marc Stein reported in his must-subscribe independent Substack newsletter that there is “rising buzz” around the league that Vogel could be scapegoated if the Lakers continue to struggle:
There is also rising buzz in coaching circles about the pressure mounting on Frank Vogel given the Lakers’ worrisome 10-10 start … given L.A.’s lack of flexibility to make roster changes.
But I know what the first comments are going to be: “Why should we care what other coaches think of Frank Vogel’s job security? They’re not the Lakers,” which is a fair point, but my counter would be not just Marc’s credentials, but also that if you’ll recall, he was also the first to report that there were “increasingly pessimistic rumbles” in circulation that Vogel would get anything longer than a one-year extension. The Lakers announced an extension later that same day in a Friday news dump... but it ultimately leaked that — just as Stein’s sources predicted — it was only for one year. So his sources in these areas have been dead-on before, and very recently to boot.
Does that mean that Vogel is definitely getting fired? Of course not. These are just the first whispers that people in the league even think he’s in danger. And as our own Christian Rivas wrote earlier this week, there are plenty of legitimate arguments to be made that firing Vogel would not fix this team’s issues.
However, as I wrote about on Wednesday, there have also been subtle and public criticisms and finger-pointing (including both from, and seemingly aimed at, Vogel) amidst the team’s disappointing start. And as Stein hints at above, the first people to go in situations where that type of discontent gets worse are almost never the players. It’s the coach who — even if they aren’t the only problem — may no longer be the solution, either.
Now, maybe the Lakers turn things around. Vogel has been slow to adjust outside of his comfort zone, but he has done so with increasing frequency lately, from playing LeBron James in an unconventional center-less lineup, to going small more often, to switching and playing more zone than he freely admits he’s ever been comfortable with before.
“It’s being effective for us right now, so that’s why we’re using it a lot,” Vogel said of the team’s zone defense look that they’ve gone to more and more in recent weeks. “Because of our injuries we have a lot of situations where we don’t have good matchups to try to slow down the other teams’ unique players, so sometimes you have to be creative.
“It’s part of this year’s journey that I’m embracing, and enjoying the challenge of doing something I’ve not done before as a coach. And we’re having some success with it, so hopefully we can continue to grow it.”
If adjustments like that continue, then maybe these rumblings turn out to be just that: League gossip that ultimately amounts to nothing. But they’re certainly worth keeping an eye on if the team’s struggles continue, because with limited options for in-season improvements due to top-heavy roster construction, a change on the sidelines is one of the few cards the team has to play if they need to shake things up.