Getting to the bottom of why Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers split

Jan 4, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel reacts during the second half gains the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel reacts during the second half gains the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Frank Vogel was let go from the Indiana Pacers when his contract expired at the end of the season. Why did the Pacers let such a great coach leave?

No one can still figure out exactly what happened.

The news trickled out following the Indiana Pacers’ close Game Seven loss to the Toronto Raptors that the Indiana Pacers were unsure they would renew Frank Vogel’s contract or keep him on as head coach.

Before Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird announced his team would be moving on from Vogel, it was reported Vogel campaigned to keep his job. By all accounts, it would seem Vogel is happy to be in Orlando but would rather still be in Indianapolis.

That is fine. Every coach comes with his baggage. No coach is able to keep the same job forever. As Stan Van Gundy would often say, coaches are hired to be fired one day.

Vogel’s baggage, as it were, was that Larry Bird simply wanted a different voice, as he told Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio on Monday. It was not about anything he did on the court.

"He didn’t say three years, but he did say that at a certain point in time changing the voice of the head coach is good for an organization. He felt like this was the right time for the Pacers. It’s natural, it’s not anything that’s really indicting of me or the job that I did, but he has always felt that that type of change can be good for a franchise. Again, Larry’s been terrific to me, gave me the opportunity of a lifetime six years ago. The Simon family was wonderful to me. I have nothing but positive feelings about the Pacers."

Vogel was certainly not let go for his performance on the court. His team surprised many by even making the Playoffs this year, let alone forcing the current Eastern Conference finalist Toronto Raptors to a close seven games.

There was some reported resistance perhaps to playing a smaller lineup and moving Paul George to the four. Vogel said that was a pure misperception. He wants the Magic to play a faster lineup and play “small” with Aaron Gordon. He merely played to his personnel with the two post-up offense he ran for much of his time in Indiana.

So it still feels very weird and strange as to why the Pacers and Vogel parted ways.

Especially considering the Pacers stuck to much of the same staff and promoted Nate McMillan to the lead chair. It may raise something of a red flag. One that no one will probably be willing to talk about publicly.

Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star wrote a bit about what McMillan is going to bring to the Pacers that Vogel did not. And it came down to a word Magic fans have become familiar with the last few years — accountability.

Where Vogel led the development, communication and teaching, McMillan was a bit more of the force.

"“I think (with) our practice habits. I think respecting one another a little more. There’s a lot that goes into it. Everyone has to be held accountable,” Bird said. “Not just one or two guys, everyone on the team, they’re all important. You don’t have a team unless you have everyone pulling together. I think the coach is the guy that sets the tone for it and you treat everyone basically the same. There’s guys that will get more shots and more playing time, but they’re all humans, they’re good kids and they’re all striving to get better. You just have to hold them all accountable.”IndyStar spoke to numerous players who had spent time under former Pacers coach Frank Vogel and McMillan, who served as associate head coach for the past three seasons. Opinions vary on the topic of accountability, however many described Vogel as a coach who remained respectful to players, trusted in the analytics and maintained confidence in his main rotational guys. When Vogel needed to make his points, players say, he did so clearly during team video sessions, however he eschewed confrontations. Nevertheless, difficult critique still had to be expressed."

These quotes are certainly telling somewhat of why Bird wanted a different voice. Vogel was the teacher and someone who got a message across in game prep, but he was not the guy to confront someone when it was needed.

That certainly can be a hindrance. And so perhaps he had reached his expiration date — or perhaps the injury to Paul George or Roy Hibbert‘s sudden decline showed he was past it.

Who Vogel hires as assistant coaches will play a major role since he will likely have to go to at least some coaches he has not previously worked with. They will have to complement him and fill in some of these gaps that he may have in his coaching style.

Any coach needs that, of course.

It is still pretty unclear why the Pacers moved on from Vogel. His on-court results certainly were nothing to complain about. It may not have even been about playing style. Vogel seemed to be playing the way he always wanted and the way management wanted.

It may have been something as nebulous as finding a new voice and a new approach. They may have believed in the philosophy but felt they needed a new approach.

Next: Frank Vogel: 'We're going to win'

The Magic certainly are happy to have Vogel. The results and philosophy speak for themselves. And everyone seems to recognize Vogel can do some very special things with any team.