What a Difference Coaching Makes!
How the Los Angeles Lakers’ decision to hire Frank Vogel as head coach has transformed the team into legitimate championship contenders
When you have an NBA team anchored by two uber talented superstars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, there’s a tendency to think all the head coach has to do is roll the ball out and let the wins just start to roll in.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth than thinking coaching LeBron James and Anthony Davis would be a cakewalk considering the unrealistic expectations and gloss, glitter, and glamour of Hollywood. Viewed by many as the Lakers’ third choice to be head coach after Monty Williams signed with the Suns and Tyronn Lue demanded a five-year deal, Frank Vogel has so far turned out to be the perfect coach for the team.
Just sixteen games into the regular season, Vogel has met the challenge of coaching LeBron James and the veteran roster Rob Pelinka has assembled and currently has the Lakers atop the NBA with a league best 14–2 record. So what has the 47-year old Vogel, who was fired in 2016 after five years as coach of the Pacers and in 2018 after two years as coach of the Magic, been specifically able to do to get the Los Angeles Lakers off to such a great start?
First, his defensive orientation as a head coach was what a Lakers’ roster with six former All-Defensive players in Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Danny Green, Avery Johnson, Dwight Howard, and Rajon Rondo needed. While Luke Walton, Monty Williams, and Tyronn Lue all talked about the importance of defense, none of them had built their coaching philosophy or individual success in the league around defense like Frank Vogel had.
And make no mistake, the reason the Los Angeles Lakers are off to their best start in more than a decade is because of their terrific performance at the defensive end, which is largely due to Frank Vogel’s job as head coach. While Rob Pelinka did a masterful job putting together a roster with the potential to play elite defense, Frank Vogel’s defense first commitment deserves the credit for getting everybody to buy in to playing defense.
The transformation of the Lakers into a legitimate defensive juggernaut that leads the league in blocked shots and plays a physical brand of bully ball defense is something Walton, Williams, or Lue could not have done. The Lakers were lucky because Frank Vogel has been able to get Anthony Davis to play like the DPOY and rejuvenate former All-Defensive veterans like LeBron James, Avery Bradley, Danny Green, and Dwight Howard.
But Vogel’s success as the Lakers’ head coach has not been limited to just getting the team to play elite defense. He’s also shown great savvy and an adept touch in managing his rotations and making in game adjustments. His decisions when to make substitutions, when to call timeouts, what plays to call after timeouts, what plays to call when the game is on the line have earned him the full trust and support of every player on the roster.
More importantly, Frank’s savvy coaching and timely decision making have won the support of the Lakers superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who have both been vocal about the great job the head coach has done. Earning the early respect and trust of LeBron James, probably the smartest and best player on the planet, was obviously an essential requirement for Frank Vogel keeping his job as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The reason Frank Vogel has been able to earn LeBron James’ support is the hard work and extensive preparation he and his staff put into getting ready for each Lakers game, which mirrors James’ pregame effort and focus. Frank and LeBron share the same intense, single minded work ethic that dominates everything they do and ultimately makes winning and the game of basketball their personal obsession as well as their chosen profession.
While it’s still early in the season and the Lakers’ tougher schedule will get more challenging going forward, Frank Vogel is off to a great start as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and has been pushing all the right buttons. How he handles the inevitable tough losses and ensuing slumps by key players over the long regular season will determine how long he’s able to hold onto his position as head coach of the storied Los Angeles Lakers.
Every once in a while, teams get lucky and find the perfect coach to build a dynasty, like the Lakers did with Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. While he’s still got a long way to go, Frank Vogel could be the next great Lakers coach.