Interim Head Coach Frank Vogel Leads Indiana To Their First Playoff Berth Since 2006 With “Togetherness”April 8, 2011 – 7:00 am by Steven Cuce
The Indiana Pacers were ten games under .500 on January 30th when interim head coach Frank Vogel took over and even the thought of the word “playoffs” seemed comical. On February 11th, the Pacers had lost their sixth game in a row and the team looked destined to finish in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference.
Vogel never doubted Indiana’s resolve and togetherness. Indiana is currently 19-16 under Vogel, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in five years with a 136-112 victory over the Washington Wizards coupled with a Charlotte Bobcats loss. Vogel should be given credit for going with a younger lineup that has gone through its fair share of ups-and-downs this year. The Pacers are locked in for the #8 seed in the East and will take on the top seeded Bulls in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Frank Vogel joined 1070 the Fan in Indianapoliswith Dan Dakich to discuss what he thinks was the biggest difference after thirty-five plus games this season, where does he think Roy Hibbert is now compared to the middle of the season, does he believe his team is now “together,” what’s been the difference in this team since the February 11th loss in Toronto that marked Indiana’s sixth loss in a row and his thoughts on the job Larry Bird has done for the Pacers organization.
What do you think has been the biggest difference after getting through thirty-five games this season?
“I just think we’ve allowed our young players to grow. The young guys, who have high ceilings with just a passionate approach to the game of basketball and just getting other guys in there and giving them consistent minutes and allowing them to grow and work through mistakes. I think that has been the biggest factor.”
Where do you think Roy Hibbert is now compared to the middle of the season?
“Oh I think he’s come a long way. I mean he’s had some defensive performances over the last couple of weeks that quite frankly I didn’t think he was capable of. I’ve got a great deal of belief in Roy. He’s really improved on the defensive end. His low-post game has come back. We have a lot of options in the first unit you know so he’s not getting as high of a volume of touches that he may get, but I’ve got a great deal of confidence in him that he’s going to produce every time he gets the ball down there. He’s really starting to shoot the ball from the perimeter again, which his perimeter jump shot sort of left him mid-way through the season. He’s continued to work hard. We’re getting in some ‘pick-and-pop’ action and he’s knocking it down. He’s playing with a great deal of confidence. I’m very pleased where he’s at.”
You seem to have a group that’s “together” now coming back from a double digit deficit in a loss on Sunday, but coming back on Wednesday night by pounding the Wizards?
“They are. They’re very together. It’s the first thing I write on the board every time we do the board, the pre-game board, togetherness is the first word on top of the board. It’s our greatest strength. We’re going nowhere as individuals. They all understand that and when you play together offensively by passing the ball and defensively by communicating and covering for each other you do great things. This team you know the other thing I write…It’s on the board every game ‘togetherness/believe.’ This team believes it can make some noise in the playoffs. They can beat anyone. We are capable. We are excited about what we’ve built here. It all starts with playing together.”
What’s been the difference since February 11th at Toronto when you lost your sixth game in a row?
“Well you know I think they just they understand how good they can be. You know they…like I said believe in themselves and you know we stayed together whether it’s good times or bad times. We knew we were going through a rough stretch. I really just try to emphasis that every team goes through a stretch like that and we made some adjustments to our rotation at that point in time. We made some adjustments to our pick-and-roll defensive, which was hurting us. You know our former scheme and just the belief that it would turn around. We had a stretch where we had five straight games against teams with winning records starting with the back-to-backs against New York, leading into that stretch I just told the guys you guys should expect to go 4-1 in this stretch. We ended up going 4-1, but just an understanding that you know…I illustrated to them the Lakers went through it early this year. Miami went through it earlier this year. Teams go through those stretches and you just have to understand that they are stretches and you will come out of them if you stay together and continue to believe. They did that and they responded and we rebounded from you know what could have been a fatal stretch for us, but our guys have character and a great deal of belief for themselves and we got out of it.”
Can you talk about the job Larry Bird has done for a minute?
“He’s done a phenomenal job. I mean first and foremost he’s been terrific to me. You know showing belief in me that I can get this job done and giving me this opportunity you know I’m just honored by that, but he’s been a great sound board for me. I’ve talked to him almost on a daily basis since I took over and really relying heavily not just on his NBA experience, but his coaching experience in particular, so you know he’s helped me through all of this. Any success or accolades I receive I gotta credit him for that. He’s been terrific, but he’s been terrific in building this team. You look at all the things that this franchise had endured in terms of going all the way back to a guy like Reggie Miller. Reggie Miller aging and going into retirement. The knee injury to Jermaine O’Neal. The injuries to Jamaal Tinsley. The off the court incidents where we had to trade away some of our better assets. You know not many GM’s affected, there’s no GM’s in the world that could have endured that and stayed on top throughout the entire stretch, so it’s a tough thing. They did a great job of drafting the last couple of years. Our young guys, all of our draft picks, they’re not top five lottery guys. They’re are middle of the first round picks and the chances of players like that succeeding are not very high. He’s done a great job selecting high character guys that have talent and potential. It’s been a joy to watch them all come together and become a team like they have, but Larry has done a phenomenal job in just building this team the right way.”