Frank Vogel has coached his final game for the Los Angeles Lakers. Vogel was fired by the Lakers on Monday, the team announced. The Lakers, winners of the 2020 NBA championship under Vogel, entered the season as Western Conference favorites. They failed to live up to that mantle due to a combination of injuries, age, a poorly-built roster and mismanagement of that roster, and last Tuesday, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention. They closed the season with a 33-49 record. Now Vogel is paying the price for their failure and has been removed from his position as coach less than two years after leading the Lakers to the title.
"Today is not going to be a day of finger-pointing and unwinding all the specific reasons,'' Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said of the decision to move on from Vogel on Monday. "We just felt organizationally, at the highest level, it was time for a new voice. ... That's not to say anything against the incredible accomplishments that Frank Vogel has had. He was a great coach here, and he's going to go on to be a great coach somewhere else.
"This was a disappointing Lakers season at every level,'' Pelinka added. "In the face of disappointment, our fans expect more, and that's in every facet. It starts in the front office led by me, and our ability to construct the right roster. It starts with the coaches holding players accountable and making sure there's on-court execution.''
In truth, the Lakers were hardly committed to Vogel even when they hired him. They had initially planned to hire Ty Lue, but when they offered him only a three-year deal and demanded control over his coaching staff, he declined the offer and the Lakers turned to Vogel. He accepted the shorter contract and it paid off for all parties involved. Yet even after Vogel won a championship, he still needed to wait until after the 2020-21 season to earn a contract extension. That extension reportedly added only a single year to his deal, contracting him for only a total of four despite Lue getting a five-year deal from the Clippers before ever coaching a game for them.
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Vogel's strength as a coach has always been his defensive acumen. The Lakers won the 2020 championship based on their defense, and last season, they ranked No. 1 in the league despite injuries to both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Not even Vogel could save this season's Lakers roster, though, as they fell to No. 21 in defense. Couple that decline with Vogel's often baffling rotation decisions and the Lakers have decided to move on from their embattled coach.
Vogel should now become one of the most pursued coaches on the market. In three NBA stops he has won a championship, reached the conference finals three times and won just under 53 percent of his regular-season games. Should he fail to earn another head-coaching job this offseason, he could either take a year off (as he did after being fired by the Orlando Magic in 2018) or pursue an assistant coaching position. Vogel was a rumored candidate for Lue's staff had Lue been hired by the Lakers in 2019.
The Lakers, meanwhile, will now search for their sixth full-time head coach since Phil Jackson retired in 2011. None of the others have been nearly as successful as Vogel was. Traditionally, teams almost never fire coaches so soon after a championship. But the Lakers are not a traditional organization. They demand excellence year in, year out. They've made it clear that any coach that can't live up to that standard will be out of a job. Now, they've moved on from the only coach aside from Jackson to lead them to a championship in the past three decades.