If anyone expected things to be quiet around the Lakers land following the team’s biggest win of the season on Monday over the Utah Jazz, then you probably haven’t been here very long. Because that victory not only served to ease some of the frustrations around the franchise, it also may have saved Frank Vogel’s job.
A report from Sam Amick and Bill Oram of The Athletic on Tuesday morning revealed that Vogel’s job was on the line on Monday night following the team’s dismal performance in Denver on Saturday, and he could have been fired for another similar showing:
By the time the Lakers and Jazz tipped off on Monday night, sources said, Vogel was coaching for his job after he narrowly avoided being fired in the wake of the 37-point loss in Denver 48 hours earlier. Had a scene like that repeated itself against the Jazz, many believed it would have been Vogel’s last game.
Vogel, who coached the Lakers to a championship in 2020 and whose contract runs through the 2022-23 campaign, is being evaluated on a game-to-game basis and remains at risk of being fired soon if the progress doesn’t continue, sources said. It’s unclear how much Monday’s win relieved the pressure that surrounds him.
Longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein reported on Twitter that he had heard similar things about Vogel’s job security, or lack thereof:
Can add I've heard the same as @billoram and @sam_amick: Frank Vogel's job is under serious threat ... ridiculous as it sounds to hold him accountable for an ill-fitting and aging roster, Anthony Davis' absence, etc.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 18, 2022
More on the Lakers to come from me: https://t.co/LGN9cVpeGP
There’s a lot of context to this situation that requires unpacking. For one, Vogel’s job has not felt truly secure at virtually any point this season after the team gave him just a reported one-year extension in the offseason. The franchise not backing Vogel at that point spoke volumes of their faith in him.
However, since then, the team has offered some support of Vogel, none louder than from Jeanie Buss itself. A little more than a month ago, Buss went on record saying that the team would not be evaluated until 100% healthy. Since then, Anthony Davis was sidelined with an MCL sprain, adding to the team’s long injury report this season as well as not allowing the team to be seen at full strength.
While situations can change, Buss going back on her word a month after going on record in support of Vogel would be both damning and a dramatic change of pace. Making the statement that the team would not be evaluated until they’re healthy then firing Vogel when Davis, a vital part of the team, has only played three times since then is woefully unfair to Vogel.
The odds of that mattering to a franchise that hasn’t truly backed Vogel at virtually any point in the last year, though, are low. Also included in Amick and Oram’s report was news that current director of basketball affairs Kurt Rambis informed the coaching staff earlier in the year that their job was under threat:
The coaching staff has been well aware that it faced significant pressure for months. Sources say that was made clear to the staff early on this season by Kurt Rambis, the former Laker and current director of basketball affairs who has become one of the most influential members of the organization since returning to the franchise in 2017.
In the same vein, evaluating a head coach on a game-to-game basis in an 82-game season given the Lakers current roster construction and situation is similarly problematic. Considering the team has a player on a 10-day contract in Stanley Johnson in the starting lineup on most nights is telling of how unpredictable things have gotten this season.
However, as the Lakers continue to flounder at .500 deeper into the season, the spotlight on the team — and now, especially Vogel — will only get brighter and brighter. A team that had title aspirations performing as poorly as this one has, regardless of the context of injuries, often leads to some type of change. Front offices won’t fire themselves, and head coaches are the ones who normally fall on the sword.
With the team set to go on their annual Grammy road trip after a home game against the Pacers on Wednesday, it could be a do-or-die stretch of the season for Vogel and the Lakers coming up.
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