LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers fired Frank Vogel on Monday, choosing their championship-winning head coach to take the first fall for one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history.
Los Angeles achieved wildly low this season, finishing 33–49 and missing the 10-team Western Conference playoffs for a year in a humiliating conclusion that was won by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and was widely expected with a veteran-laden supporting cast. To fight for another championship.
Vogel was fired exactly 18 months later when he led the Lakers to the franchise’s 17th title in his first season in charge. The ensuing two seasons saw almost nothing going well 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 the next season.
“Frank is a great coach and a good human being,” Pelinka said in a statement. “We will forever be grateful to him for his work guiding us to the 2019-20 NBA Championship. This is an incredibly difficult decision, but we think it is necessary at this time. ,
ESPN reported Vogel’s imminent firing shortly after the Lakers finished the season by beating Denver in overtime on Sunday night. During an awkward postgame news conference, Vogel admitted that he had not yet been informed of the club’s decision before it was leaked to ESPN.
It was a disappointing, embarrassing ending that began overwhelmingly for Vogel, the former Orlando and Indiana coach. The Lakers claimed a title in the Florida Bubble in October 2020, but did not win another playoff round over the next two seasons.
Los Angeles was never like a championship team this season, despite trading for Westbrook and signing Anthony to play alongside James and Davis. The Lakers faltered with nearly .500 until January 7, when they moved to 10-30 noses due to the absence of Davis’ latest lengthy injury.
Despite another impressive season from 37-year-old James, the Lakers never made it to the roster this season, which included nine players over 30 and 11 players who were not with the team last season. Davis managed to play only 40 of his 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 President Ballyhoo around the teaming of James, Davis, and Westbrook, the trio only managed to play 21 games together – and go 11-10. The Lakers used 41 different starting lineups.
“At the end of the day, the reason we weren’t great together is because we weren’t on the damn floor together,” James said. “You never got a chance to see what a ball club could be.”
Although Vogel remained publicly confident in his ability to fix problems resulting from injuries and two years of high-risk roster assembly, the coach did not come up with a coherent solution to Los Angeles’ woes.
But while Vogel received enough criticism for his curious decisions on player rotation and lack of an aggressive game plan, the Lakers’ biggest problem in Vogel’s final two seasons was Davis’ inability to stay healthy.
The eight-time All-Star was a staple in the Big Man bubble, but Davis has played in just 76 of the Lakers’ 154 matches over the past two seasons, battling multiple major injury problems.
James also struggled with injuries during the last two years, appearing in only 101 games. He played in only one of the Lakers’ final eight games this season due to an ankle sprain, and Los Angeles were relegated from playoff contention during that time, with Davis from a six-week absence for three late games. had returned.
James spoke to the media on Monday morning before the Lakers front office revealed Vogel’s fate.
“I respect Frank as a coach, as a man,” James said. “Our partnership that we’ve had here over the years has been nothing but candid and great conversations. It’s a guy who gives the game everything and gets us ready every night. … I don’t know That’s what’s going to happen if Frank is here, but I have nothing but respect for him.”
Vogel was hired in May 2019 to assemble a cohesive team around James and Davis, which was officially acquired from New Orleans two months later. Vogel’s plans worked immediately: His first team endured the NBA’s coronavirus shutdown and then won a ring, with Vogel leading a deep, defensively dominant group to the title.
Pelinka has since completely changed that championship roster, and the results have been appalling. Less than a full calendar year after the victory in the Bubble, only James, Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker remained on the roster to begin the season – along with Dwight Howard, who left the team and returned.
Los Angeles went on to score 42–30, battling major injuries from Davis and James last season before losing to Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs.
Vogel’s firing is the first change since the widespread failure of the high-risk, aging roster and team-building strategy chosen by Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s former agent. He took control of the Lakers’ basketball decisions after the sudden departure of Magic Johnson in 2019.
Pelinka tore apart the entire support structure of the Lakers Championship supporting cast last summer when he allowed Alex Caruso to move to Chicago and then traded Kentavius Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma in a package for Westbrook. Pelinka hoped to build a big three of elite talent to be complemented by the low-cost giants rather than the home Lakers.
Instead, Pelinka’s moves forced Vogel to rebuild his defense from scratch with inferior defensive players. The Lakers never came close to matching the defensive success of the previous two teams, finishing 21st in the defensive ratings after Vogel’s first two seasons were a top-three team, and their offensive output did not make up for it.
More AP NBA: More