LOS ANGELES: Frank Vogel orchestrated the remarkable 17th championship in Los Angeles Lakers history in his first season on their bench.
Exactly 18 months after that triumph, it also became part of the Lakers past.
The Lakers fired Vogel on Monday, choosing their title-winning coach to earn the first fall of one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history.
Los Angeles finished 33-49 and missed the 10-team Western Conference playoffs this season. It was a humiliating underperformance for LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and a veteran-laden supporting cast widely expected to fight for another championship.
Vogel was under contract until next season, but almost nothing has gone well over the past two seasons for the rosters assembled by general manager Rob Pelinka and coached by Vogel, who went 127-98 over the course of his three seasons at the helm of the club.
Pelinka declined to explain on Monday why he and owner Jeanie Buss felt Vogel should be fired.
“Today will not be a day of pointing fingers and revealing all the specific reasons,” Pelinka said. “We just felt organizationally, at the highest level, that it was time for a new voice. … That’s not to say anything against Frank Vogel’s incredible accomplishments. He was a great coach here, and he will continue to be an excellent coach elsewhere.
ESPN reported Vogel’s impending dismissal immediately after the Lakers ended the season by beating Denver in overtime on Sunday night. In an awkward post-match press conference, Vogel admitted he had not yet been briefed on the club’s decision before it was leaked to ESPN.
Pelinka dismissed the leak’s public relations embarrassment for the Lakers, calling the report “speculative and unsourced.”
But it was a sticky end to a tenure that started out huge for Vogel, the former Orlando and Indiana coach. The Lakers won a title in the Florida bubble in October 2020, but haven’t won another playoff round since.
Pelinka doesn’t plan to replace Vogel immediately, and he said he hasn’t even compiled a list of potential candidates. The general manager said it “would be great” to have a coach in place before the June draft, but the Lakers’ search will be “thorough and methodical.”
Los Angeles has never looked like a championship team this season despite trading Westbrook and signing Anthony to play alongside James and Davis. The Lakers stumbled nearly .500 until Jan. 7, when they entered a 10-30 slump exacerbated by the latest long injury absence from Davis, who has missed more games than he has. played for the past two seasons.
“It’s been a disappointing Lakers season on every level,” Pelinka said. “In the face of disappointment, our fans expect more, and that’s in every facet. It starts with the front office that I lead and our ability to build the right list. It starts with the coaches holding the players accountable and making sure there is execution on the pitch.
Despite another impressive season from James, 37, the Lakers have never gelled this season with a roster built around nine players over 30 and 11 players who weren’t with the team last season. Davis only managed to play 40 of their 82 games, while Westbrook struggled to fit into the Lakers team concept during one of the worst seasons of his professional career.
After so many pre-season ballads around the team of James, Davis and Westbrook, the trio only managed to play 21 games together – and went 11-10. The Lakers have used 41 different starting formations.
“At the end of the day, the reason we weren’t very good together is that we weren’t on the fucking floor together,” James said after the Lakers finished with the worst percentage of wins in his 19 NBA seasons (.402). “You never had the chance to see what the ball club could be.”
Although Vogel remained publicly confident in his ability to solve the problems created by injuries and two years of assembling the high-risk roster, the coach never offered coherent solutions to Los Angeles’ woes.
But while Vogel received a lot of criticism for his curious decisions on player rotations and his lack of an offensive game plan, the biggest problem for the Lakers during Vogel’s last two seasons was Davis’ inability to stay in. healthy.
The eight-time All-Star big man has been dominant in the bubble, but Davis has played in just 76 of the Lakers’ 154 games over the past two seasons while battling several major injury issues.
James has also struggled with injuries for the past two years, appearing in just 101 games. He played in just one of the Lakers’ last eight games this season due to a sprained ankle, and Los Angeles was knocked out of the playoffs during that streak despite Davis returning after a no-show. six weeks for three games late.
James spoke to the media Monday morning before Vogel’s fate was revealed by the Lakers front office.
“I respect Frank as a coach, as a man,” James said. “Our partnership that we’ve had over the few years here has been nothing but great, candid conversations. He’s a guy who gives his all to the game and has prepared us every night. …I don’t don’t know what’s going to happen with Frank here, but I have nothing but respect for him.
Vogel was hired in May 2019 to build a cohesive team around James and Davis, who was officially acquired from New Orleans two months later. Vogel’s plans worked right away: his first team weathered the NBA’s coronavirus shutdown and then won a ringside, with Vogel leading a deep and defensively dominating group to the title.
Pelinka has changed that league slate drastically since then, and the results have been abysmal. Less than a full calendar year after the bubble triumph, only James, Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker remained on the roster to start this season – with Dwight Howard, who left the team and returned.
Los Angeles went 42-30 last season while battling serious injuries to Davis and James before losing to Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs. Pelinka then dismantled the Lakers’ championship-winning supporting cast when he allowed Alex Caruso to leave for Chicago and traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma in a package for Westbrook.
Pelinka hoped to build a Big Three of elite talent to be supplemented by low-cost veterans, rather than local or longtime Lakers. Instead, Pelinka’s moves forced Vogel to rebuild his defense from scratch with inferior defensive players.
The Lakers haven’t come close to matching the defensive success of the last two teams, finishing 21st in the defensive rankings after being a top-three team in Vogel’s first two seasons, and their offensive performance hasn’t been able to compensate with Davis frequently unavailable. .