Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird is convinced his team needs “a new voice” as head coach.
That’s why Frank Vogel, despite making the playoffs and posting winning records in five of six seasons, will not have his contract renewed, Bird announced Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“The last few days, I’ve had numerous conversations with Frank and decided that it was time for a new voice around here,” Bird said.
Bird acknowledged his decision won’t be popular, that it was difficult for him, but he started considering a change as far back as the All-Star break. The Pacers made the playoffs and lost their first-round series after pushing favored Toronto to seven games.
“You know sometimes my job really sucks and this is one of the toughest things I’ve done because of the respect I have for Frank,” Bird said. “I had time to think about it and watch the team throughout the year. I know a lot of you didn’t expect us to make the playoffs, but I had a lot higher expectations than most people on how our team how our team should play and how far they should go in the playoffs and how they should compete every night.
“I just came to the conclusion that I felt that it was necessary for these guys to hear a new voice. But it’s tough.”
Vogel had a 250-181 record in the regular season and 31-30 in the playoffs. He took the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back seasons in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Vogel, 42, was popular with players, media and fans. He rarely lost his cool, especially in pressure situations. But perhaps that’s why the no-nonsense Bird came to the conclusion a change was needed. The Pacers, led by three-time All-Star Paul George, have a locker room full of laid-back personalities. The team lacks an outspoken leader, someone who will say what’s needed at times and motivate teammates.
Based on his own experiences as a Hall of Fame player, Bird subscribes to the theory that NBA players stop listening to a coach after a certain amount of time. And, without naming names, he said that has happened with the Pacers.
Bird made it clear it was his decision. He spoke to Vogel by phone on Wednesday night and again for about 30 minutes on Thursday morning. He said Vogel tried to convince Bird to delay announcing the decision, to take more time to think about it.
Bird said he didn’t speak with any players, either. He never consults with them on such decisions.
The immediate head coaching search won’t include his former Boston Celtics teammate Kevin McHale because Bird said they’re too close as friends. Bird wouldn’t name any names, but said he knows his phone will start ringing today because the Pacers job is attractive, that coaches want to work with George as well as 20-year-old forward Myles Turner.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.