Orlando Magic never gave Frank Vogel a chance to succeed

Frank Vogel proved his coaching chops in winning a title with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was just more proof of how little chance the Orlando Magic gave him. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Frank Vogel proved his coaching chops in winning a title with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was just more proof of how little chance the Orlando Magic gave him. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic fired Frank Vogel in 2018, since then the coach has won the 2020 NBA title with arguably the best player in NBA history as his first option. 

A lot can change in two years.

Just ask Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel.

The coach went from a dumpster fire situation in Orlando where he had no top 20 players on the roster and struggled to reach 30 wins to coaching two top-five players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

He went from an unwieldy roster that did not seem to fit at all, playing a style that the league seemingly had passed by to leading a team to the pinnacle of the NBA facing an unprecedented set of circumstances to win a championship.

This clearly speaks to how the players can determine the future of coaches depending on the type of success they have. Give a coach the best players and the flexibility to coach them and great things can happen. Handcuff the coach with a mismatched roster with little upside and things turn out very differently.

Things went very bad for Vogel in Central Florida.

The first year Vogel finished the year with a measly 29-53 record. At the time Vogel’s number one option was Nikola Vucevic, a stark difference between him and LeBron James. That was made even worse by the Magic’s decision to trade away Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka in the offseason AND sign Bismack Biyombo to a four-year contract.

The Magic were seemingly trying to push out their best player in Vucevic in a get-rich-quick scheme to return to the playoffs. The idea flamed out quickly as the team’s defense floundered by December and Ibaka, facing free agency in the offseason, seemed disengaged with the process.

Orlando never gave Vogel a chance.

The next year was even worse as he led the Magic to a 25-57 record as injuries embroiled the roster and nothing seemed even capable of working.

The organization believed Vogel would be able to turn anything into a strong defensive team but failed to build him a cogent roster to give him a chance.

This was a bad match to pair Vogel without any star players — like Paul George in Indiana — because he could not help elevate the team to their potential. Even if the potential was a last-seeded playoff berth and early exit in the first round.

Vogel’s laid-back approach works well with veteran teams who knew what they were doing rather than a young team that needed to learn to win. The Magic simply were not the right fit for Vogel to coach. Unlike the Lakers who came in with winning expectations and a player in James who could reinforce what the coach was saying, so long as he bought in.

Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers /

Los Angeles Lakers

Vogel did good work elevating the Indiana Pacers from a perennial playoff team into a true title contender — even challenging James’ Miami Heat teams in consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. He was not good at helping a young team grow and learn how to win.

It is no wonder then that the most successful coaches the Magic have had were disciplinarians like Scott Skiles, who led the team to a 35-win season, and Steve Clifford, who has led the Magic to consecutive playoff appearances.

The Magic went 54-110 under Vogel. He was unable to get the most out of those teams.

This seemed to be a step in the wrong direction for Vogel, it seemed as if he would never hoist up a Larry O’Brien Trophy. It was not even certain he could get back into coaching again. He took the 2019 season off and was the second or even third choice to coach the Lakers.

This is a classic story of redemption for a modern-day NBA coach.

Vogel has always been a great coach and when he was in Indiana coaching Paul George and the Pacers he did not have the star power to defeat LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat. Who knows how that series would have ended if Vogel had another top-five player to pair alongside George while they were battling in the Eastern Conference Finals? Even having Roy Hibbert to anchor his defense seemed enough to catapult him to contention.

Vogel had already proven himself a more than capable coach. He just needed the right team to get him there.

That series is where Vogel started to get a lot of recognition as a legit NBA head coach. After he was fired in Orlando he went to the Lakers and won a title with the player that denied him while he was a head coach in Indiana.

Now he is in a position to do what only three coaches (Phil Jackson, Eric Spoelstra, Steve Kerr) have done in modern-day NBA history, repeat.

Next. Dwight Howard comes full circle with title. dark

And unlike in Orlando, he has the team to do it.