Frank Vogel’s tenure with the Lakers is hard to fully encapsulate. It featured a title, a global pandemic, a superstar trade that failed spectacularly and all that came in three years. He was lauded with praise for an NBA title in his debut season with the franchise and then fired about 18 months later.
But when Vogel returned to Los Angeles for the first time since that firing on Thursday, this time as head coach of the Suns, it was nothing but love that he expressed for the franchise he saw so many highs and lows with in such a short span.
“I wouldn’t call it strange,” Vogel said of being back in the Crypto.com Arena. “I would say it’s wonderful. It’s great to see all the friendly faces and it’s nice to be back in this building. I have some great, great memories here and being part of the Lakers’ championship legacy. Very fond memories here.”
The Lakers rightfully honored Vogel early in the game with a tribute video. LeBron showed his gratitude afterward with a hug as well.
A well-deserved moment of recognition for Frank Vogel as he returns to https://t.co/RbGGF9YhdO Arena with the Suns for the first time since being dismissed as Lakers coach in 2022. LeBron James greeted him after a video tribute was played pic.twitter.com/r2u9wV4ePA— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 27, 2023
Even by Lakers standards, Vogel’s tenure as head coach of the Lakers was...odd, admittedly through little fault of his own.
In his first season, he took a roster that was cobbled together as a Plan B in the offseason following Kawhi spurning the Lakers and led them to a title. Even by those standards, it would have been an impressive feat.
But, obviously, that title also came under the most unique circumstances in league history. Quarantined in a bubble in Orlando for months, the Lakers won title No. 17 with no fans present and no rightful celebration or parade to follow.
That it was also Vogel’s first title in his first trip to the NBA Finals made it all the more impressive. In speaking about what he learned during his tenure in Los Angeles, he pointed to his ability to adapt and the success he had as result.
“I think continuing to grow and evolve and adapt. It culminated with a championship here in LA,” Vogel said. “The offense evolves. The defense evolves. The willingness to change what you’ve always done helped me win an NBA title here. I’d say that’s probably the biggest lesson.”
The lasting effects of that title and the severely abbreviated offseason derailed the 2021-22 season and by the time the fans returned in full, the Lakers were in the middle of a bizarre experiment with Russell Westbrook that failed miserably.
Ultimately, Vogel played the role of the fall guy and was gone as quickly as he arrived. No goodwill for winning a title, no benefit of the doubt for flawed rosters. He wasn’t faultless in the Lakers going from title-winners to missing the playoffs in two seasons, but he as the first half of last season showed, it was hardly all his fault.
All that would serve as just cause for at least a little bit of resentment. Vogel wasn’t blameless in the Lakers’ downfall, but so many things going against him throughout his three years in Los Angeles were out of his control.
When asked if there was any hard feelings with how things ended, though, Vogel was quick to shoot down the notion. It should come with
“I’m grateful they had me as their coach,” Vogel said. “The opportunity for them to hire me and give me an opportunity to be around these great players and this great franchise, that’s really the only thing I’m carrying with me. The ability to become part of this incredible championship legacy is something I’m proud of, very, very prideful in.
“I just have warm memories when I think of the Lakers.”
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.