When the season ended for the Lakers, there were reasons for optimism that the team would offer head coach Frank Vogel a contract extension this summer, despite a first-round exit at the hands of the Phoenix Suns.
For one thing, Vogel had coached the Lakers to a championship less than a year prior, and letting a coach head into a season as a lame duck is not only a potential catalyst for locker room upheaval, but also bad form, especially when they have won a title for your team. There was also the fact that it had previously been reported the Lakers were planning to extend Vogel after the season.
Exit interviews did nothing to dissuade that notion, as Vogel said he wanted to remain “a Laker for life” as general manager Rob Pelinka talked about how valued he was. But still, less than a month later, reports began to trickle out that Lakers staffers were confused that Vogel had yet to receive a new deal.
Now we know why. NBA insider Marc Stein reported on his Substack (which you should subscribe to) that the Lakers appear unlikely to offer Vogel more than a one-year extension, if they give him one at all:
An extension was widely considered an inevitability in league coaching circles once Vogel joined a list of nine active coaches with a ring on his résumé. Perhaps that extension is still coming, but there have been some increasingly pessimistic rumbles in circulation about Vogel’s prospects for a new deal or anything longer than a one-year extension.
Another year tacked on to Vogel’s current deal (which expires next summer) would obviously give him a greater level of both job and financial security moving forward, but it’s also not hard to see why he and his agent may balk at such an offer. For one thing, as Stein notes, Vogel is just one of nine active head coaches who has won a title. And it’s not like he did that a long time ago, either. It was 11 months ago, for his current team.
Now, maybe the Lakers want to see Vogel’s offensive chops with a team they have certainly skewed to score the ball better than any roster Vogel has ever coached before. Maybe they just want to line up the expiration of Vogel’s deal with the summer when LeBron James and Russell Westbrook’s deals expire in two years, a time when the team will presumably start to look different.
Or maybe this is just how this sometimes-frugal ownership group does things, as they have not extended a coach since Phil Jackson got one in 2007. Since then, they’ve been paying some combination of Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Byron Scott and Luke Walton all at the same time, so they’ve seen the dangers of committing to the wrong coach.
But that’s just the thing: Vogel has proven he’s the right coach for this team. Is he perfect? No. But no coach is. It’s just strange — and sort of a bad look — that the team would leave him out to dry like this after his defensive tactics and strategic adjustments between games were such a big part of their 2020 title run. Maybe they just think coaches are fungible on a team this talented.
But if they’re going to make it so blatantly clear with their actions that they feel that way, they’d better hope they’re right, because this is certainly not the way to get the best candidates after Vogel, whenever his time in Los Angeles does come to an end. And given how the Lakers are handling this, maybe that day will come sooner than any of us ever thought when Vogel was hoisting the team’s 17th Larry O’Brien trophy in Orlando, just last year.