Frank Vogel stays positive as bleak season ends

Mar 29, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel smiles against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel smiles against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Frank Vogel is known for his positivity and optimism in how he carries himself. That has served him well as he tries to finish the season and look ahead

There was a futility to the final weeks of the season.

The Orlando Magic were long out of the Playoff race. Even coach Frank Vogel, ever the optimist, admitted it was a long shot and not likely to happen when the Magic were still mathematically alive. Even when the team was eliminated, Vogel stayed true to his principles. He tried to find a way to keep his team engaged and finishing strong.

Call Vogel the eternal optimist then. It is one of his well-known and endearing qualities about him. He is not a shouter — or much of one — and can always slide in a sarcastic joke with his encounters with the media. Vogel remained who he was and the coach the Magic looked to hire. Someone encouraging yet demanding and never one to give into pessimism with a young team still seeking development.

Even as things look and seem so bleak with how the season was supposed to or expected to go, Vogel has tried his best to keep his team’s spirits up.

"“I just think positive energy and enthusiasm go a long way,” Vogel said after Saturday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers. “Understanding that we have a young team and we’re trying to get them to improve and even if we didn’t get the job done this year, there is sustained belief that we’re going to get this going in the right direction and it’s not just a lost year. There were a lot of good habits developed toward the end of this year. That’s important. We talk about that every day. That’s part of the reason why our guys are staying so well engaged. They care about doing things the right way.”"

That is all part of what Vogel has fought for even as the season’s fate seemed predetermined. He gave his team a lot of credit for staying engaged in the process and continuing to fight. Everyone will say the Magic after the All-Star Break have played a more aesthetically pleasing style. It is something they think they can maintain.

But it does seem like the realities of the season have finally gotten to the Magic. In this last week, Orlando has fallen flat despite Vogel trying to set up a mini-Playoff mindset. It culminated in a 37-point loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

The team only hopes it can finish the season with a better taste in their mouth. At least something to wash down the disappointment everyone feels.

"“Obviously [the coaches] are if not more just as frustrated as we are and disappointed,” Evan Fournier told Orlando Magic Daily. “We are all responsible for that. We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and do better. Players and coaches. I think everyone is disappointed by this season. No doubt.”"

Vogel gave a warmer message to fans asking at shootaround Wednesday, asking them to stick with the team and be patient. These things are cyclical, he said, and talent levels regenerate. He said he feels the team is moving in the right direction and he remains committed to building a winning culture in Orlando.

Magic fans may roll their eyes some at that kind of optimism. Vogel has been here for one disappointing year, not five years of a struggling rebuild.

But that optimism is what characterizes Vogel most. Evan Fournier said he is a very positive person. That is probably the biggest thing that comes to his mind. Terrence Ross added the experience with Vogel has been a good one.

As the Magic know, beneath that sunny disposition is an intense competitor trying to get the most out of his team to win.

"“He just wants to win,” Terrence Ross told Orlando Magic Daily. “He wants to win as bad as the rest of us. He works hard. He tries to put us in the best possible position to win. It’s been frustrating, but for the most part he has been encouraging, trying to get us to play hard. He has been encouraging the whole way.”"

Encouraging does still mean accountable.

Throughout the year players have detailed Vogel’s legendary film sessions, where he picks apart mistakes and shows them to the whole team. But even those, players said, were interspersed with positivity and optimism.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The results have not come on the floor in the way the Magic had hoped. And Vogel will be the first to say he needs to look at his performance. He said after Monday’s loss he is disappointed in his coaching ability this year and he did not do a good enough job coaching his team up to the level they needed.

That is a stark admission. Vogel has hidden a lot of his frustration well all year.

But he knows his positivity is what is his saving grace. It is what will help his team in the long run. As he has said, this is the first year of his program building.

This Magic team is a challenge for sure. Vogel will approach it with his trademark optimism.

"“I enjoy a good challenge in my life,” Vogel told Orlando Magic Daily after Saturday’s game. “This is a big challenge this job. It’s difficult. It’s painful losing as much as we have and working as hard as you do and not seeing the success. It’s a good challenge. I’m very blessed and thankful to be the coach of this team. I look forward to the days where we are the team that’s kicking people’s butts in the Playoffs.”"

Next: Orlando Magic fail to measure up in 'mini-Playoff'

The next step will happen in the offseason. And it will be a big challenge. For sure, Vogel is already hopeful and looking forward to the 2018 season.