LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers fired Frank Vogel on Monday after three seasons.
To say the Lakers underachieved this season would be an understatement. They finished 33-49, missing the playoffs and even the play-in tournament (where seeds 7-10 play for a chance to get in the NBA playoffs). This came just 18 months after the Lakers won the NBA Finals in Vogel's first season as head coach.
On Monday night's Locked On Lakers podcast, hosts Andy and Brian Kamenetzky discuss the treatment of Vogel on the way out and how that will impact their ability to recruit a prime coaching candidate to replace him.
Almost nothing has gone right in the ensuing two seasons for the rosters assembled by general manager Rob Pelinka and coached by Vogel, who went 127-98 in his three seasons running the club. He was under contract through next season.
“Frank is a great coach and a good man," Pelinka said in a statement. “We will forever be grateful to him for his work in guiding us to the 2019-20 NBA championship. This is an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one we feel is necessary at this point.”
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ESPN reported Vogel’s imminent firing immediately after the Lakers finished the season by beating Denver in overtime Sunday night. During an awkward postgame news conference, Vogel admitted he had not yet been told of the club’s decision before it was leaked to ESPN.
Despite another impressive season from the 37-year-old LeBron James, the Lakers never jelled this season with a roster including nine players over 30 and 11 players who weren’t with the team last season. Davis managed to play in only 40 of their 82 games, while Westbrook struggled mightily to fit into the Lakers' team concept during one of the worst seasons of his professional career.
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 candid, and great conversations. This is a guy that gives everything to the game and prepared us every single night. ... I don’t know what’s going to happen with Frank being here, but I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”
What's next for the Lakers?
With the firing of Vogel, including how it was handled with ESPN's report as the Lakers game ended Sunday night, and then Vogel's press conference, the narrative on Monday is one about disrespect in regards to the team's front office and its handling of Vogel and this tumultuous season.
This Lakers team was compiled of numerous offseason pick ups last summer, with nine players over the age of 30 rostered and 11 players rostered who weren't with the team last season.
On the Locked On Lakers podcast, Andy and Brian Kamenetzky discuss whether this disrespect in regards to Vogel, or at least perceived disrespect, will hamper the Lakers' ability to score big on a premier head coach this upcoming offseason.
"Whether or not they're able to get a premier head coach I think is actually up to some question," Brian Kamenetzky said on Locked On Lakers. "The Lakers are developing a reputation for treating coaches poorly, treating them as interchangeable, treating them as less important."
Brian Kamenetzky suggested Utah's Quin Snyder as someone who is potentially available after this season, depending on the Jazz's playoff performance, which would likely make him the top coach available.
"Is he going to be somebody that looks at where the Lakers are now and thinks that's where I want to go? I think this is where the Vogel tweet from (Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN) right after the game. Whether it's fair or not to the front office, the perception is this is the way they treated a guy who helped them win a title two years ago...I have no problem from a job performance standpoint of Vogel being let go. But, how you treat a guy like that matters to the person who might replace him," Brian Kamenetzky said.
Other than Snyder, some names that are already being tossed around include Lakers assistant and former Grizzlies and Knicks head coach David Fizdale, former Lakers (and multiple other teams) head coach Mike D'Antoni, Warriors assistants Kenny Atkinson and Mike Brown, 76ers current head coach Doc Rivers, 76ers assistant Sam Cassell, and others.
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham contributed to this report