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LEADING QUESTIONS: Pacers' new coach preaches overachieving

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Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.

Frank Vogel, 38, was named head coach of the Indiana Pacers on July 6, after a lengthy audition as interim head coach last season. The team fired coach Jim O’Brien on Jan. 30, leaving former assistant Vogel to helm the team through 38 remaining regular-season games (going 20-18) and a gutty five-game playoff series loss against the Chicago Bulls.



Taking control of the young team, Vogel immediately loosened O’Brien’s tight reins in hopes of reinvigorating the players (see video above). He also tried to imprint a new identity on the team—that of relentless, overachieving underdogs who would stop at nothing for a win.

Vogel is quite comfortable with that identity himself. Never a gifted athlete, he forged a career as a high school player in Wildwood, N.J., and Division III starter at Juniata College in central Pennsylvania through dogged preparation and raw persistence.

He learned the lesson early. A gym rat as a youngster, Vogel heard a motivational speech at a basketball camp about challenging one’s self to continually improve, punctuated by eye-popping basketball-spinning tricks.

“I bought into it,” Vogel said. “I was like, ‘I want to do that. I want to keep getting better.’ So I was able to learn these tricks. I spent a lot of time in my front driveway, just spinning it and spinning it. Eventually, I mastered the craft.”

Friends encouraged him to audition for the “Stupid Human Tricks” segment on “Late Night with David Letterman.” The 13-year-old Vogel was a hit on the show, spinning a basketball on the back end of a toothbrush while brushing his teeth with the bristles.

Hard work doesn’t always pay off. Vogel enrolled at Juniata College and decided to study pre-med while also playing on the school’s varsity basketball squad. The best grade point average he could muster was a 2.6, so he started looking for alternatives. After deciding on coaching as a career, he became enamored of the resurgent University of Kentucky program headed by then-coach Rick Pitino.

“I said, ‘I want to work for that guy. I want to learn what they do and why he’s one of the best coaches in the country,’” Vogel recalled. That led to a great leap of faith—abandoning his senior year at Juniata and transferring to Kentucky in hopes of landing a spot as a student-manager.

Through persistence, Vogel landed a 30-second interview with Pitino and made the acquaintance of then-assistant Jim O’Brien. He eventually convinced O’Brien to give him a shot, and ended up working as a video coordinator for the team.

In 1997, he followed Pitino to the Boston Celtics, where he served as video coordinator through 2001, and then an assistant coach through 2004. After holding positions with the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards, Vogel landed in Indianapolis in 2007 as an assistant to O’Brien.

In the video below, Vogel discusses early influences on his attitude toward success, his appearance on "Late Night" and how he was able to convince O'Brien to let him join the Kentucky program.



Contrary to popular belief, professional coaches don't pepper every halftime locker-room talk with emotional calls to greatness. But they occasionally are merited. In the video below, Vogel recalls inciting his players during halftime of a game against the Miami Heat, and how he used a pivotal scene in the movie "Rocky" to inspire them.


 

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  • Impressed
    Wow, Coach Vogel seems like a down to earth guy. I'm impressed by his work ethic and how he started at the bottom! It's exciting to have him as the new Pacers coach.

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  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

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