Fresh-faced coach ready to breathe new life into Pacers

January 31, 2011
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The Indiana Pacers have crossed the 2010-11 season’s midway mark, and the team’s results aren’t good. And I’m not just talking about the Pacers’ win-loss record, which is 10 games below .500.

From a business standpoint, the season also is turning out to be a loser. Through 22 home games, the Pacers are 28th in the 30-team National Basketball Association in attendance. The Pacers are averaging 13,825 fans per home game, ahead of only Sacramento and New Jersey.

According to Pacers executives, the team lost $30 million in each of the last two seasons. With the exception of $10 million the team got from the city this year, there’s little indication that this season will be any better than last year. It appears Pacers owner Herb Simon is likely to lose another $20 million or so this season.

In 2009, Pacers executives said the team’s ticket revenue was more than $400,000 per game below league average, and it’s difficult to imagine that has changed much.

So it’s no surprise Simon urged Larry Bird, director of Pacers basketball operations, to fire four-year head coach Jim O’Brien, whose teams here never came anywhere near posting a winning record.

There’s now at least some hope that new coach, Frank Vogel, can do what O’Brien could not. Namely, energize Pacers players, and in turn fire-up Pacers fans.

Not much is known about Vogel other than that he has been a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards, and also served as an assistant coach for O'Brien in Philadelphia and Boston. Taking the reigns of the Pacers is a huge step up for a man better known for reviewing film than directing a team from the sidelines. But Vogel looked like a man with a positive outlook, energy and something to prove at Sunday’s press conference. It was a marked contrast from what Pacers fans have seen recently from O’Brien.

And there’s this: Vogel is young. At 37, almost everyone who has crossed his path in the NBA says he has a bright future. As intangibles go, he looks like he stepped out of a scene from the movie Hoosiers. He seems like just the type of guy who could capture this market’s imagination—if only he can string some victories together.

Vogel is a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a degree in biology and became the Wildcats video coordinator after graduation. He attended Juniata College in Huntington, Pa., where he was a three-year starter for the Division III Eagles. He then transferred to Kentucky, became a student manager and played on the practice squad in 1996.

Pacers brass have to hope Vogel can do for the Pacers what Jason Garrett did for the Dallas Cowboys this NFL season. Garrett took over for Wade Phillips mid-season and put some juice back into an otherwise downtrodden franchise. Garrett last month was hired to be the Cowboys full-time head coach earlier this month.

Only time will tell if Vogel can achieve that kind of success, but the Pacers new coach has plenty of achievements within his grasp.

In Garrett’s case, there was almost no chance he could get the Cowboys into the playoffs. Even with the Pacers’ recent losing streak, a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is still well within the team’s reach.

With the agreement between players and team owners set to expire after this season, and Bird suddenly waffling about his future, it’s too early to look ahead to next season.

Right now, all Simon’s hopes rest on a little-known coach who is stepping into the NBA spotlight for the very first time.

  • Typo
    I know this is nitpicking, but this one really gets me: "breath" is a noun; "breathe" is a verb. You mean "breathe" here.
  • Good luck Coach!!
    I hope Coach Vogel can energize this team and the Indianapolis community like Larry Brown did in the 1990s. Go Pacers!!!
  • Negative tone
    Jim O'Brien needed to go...his constant negative tone with players, inability to motivate in any way other than criticism, didn't work with most of the young players, and he single handedly killed Roy Hibbert's confidence, like TJ Ford saying "whatever" last week when he fell out of the rotation. Veterans maybe respond at first, but they tire of it too...O'Brien did well in both Boston and Philly, but not for an extended period. That act only plays so long...that is why Larry Brown doesn't stay anywhere too long. He was also married do a system where ball movement takes precedence, even when you have some players who create, who would benefit from pick and roll, like Collison, Granger, Mc Roberts. Good move...O'Brien is not a bad guy, just the wrong coach for this team. Good luck to Coach let's get to the playoffs. We have already given away too many winnable games, and there keeps being rumbling about Carmelo and the Nets. I fear if he were to end up there that the Nets would claim a playoff spot, and I am not sure who ends up out of the picture, but it could easily be us.
  • New Coach? What New Coach?
    Let's review - you have an NBA team that's tanking (again) and you realize you're going to need a new coach. You fire the current coach (about a half season too late) and replace him with a person who HAS NEVER COACHED a basketball game in his life (outside of when O'Brien was ejected).

    And you somehow believe Pacer fans will flock to games because you fired the coach who couldn't and replaced him with a coach who never was? Best o' luck with that logic.

    Why oh why wouldn't the Pacers talk with Mike Woodson or Mike Brown as incoming coach, pick one - then make announcement that O'Brien's gone and here's your new head coach with NBA experience?

    The season is lost anyway - unless you call getting blown out with a #8 seed in the playoffs - so why not bring in a REAL NBA coach to learn the players, get familiar with the Pacer front office and start building for next year?

    Oh wait, the Pacers have been building for next year for...the last 5 years.

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