INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Pacers like where they’re heading, and they want Frank Vogel to finish the job.
One day after the team announced it had given Vogel a new contract extension, he walked out of Tuesday morning’s shootaround and told reporters he appreciated the message being sent by management.
“It shows what we’re building here, something special,” Vogel said. “We’ve turned the corner, and we’re going to make some noise the next couple of years.”
The Pacers (20-14) have declined to provide details about the new deal, and Vogel stuck with the company line, though he did acknowledge it was a multi-year extension that would keep him in Indianapolis beyond next season.
For the affable 39-year-old Vogel, that was enough of a reward for his accomplishments.
He took over as head coach in January 2011 following the midseason firing of Jim O’Brien, inheriting a struggling team and leading it to the playoffs. The Pacers lost to Chicago in the first round.
That summer, Vogel had to deal with the NBA lockout and weeks of speculation about whether he’d stay in Indianapolis or land someplace else. But team executive Larry Bird decided to make Vogel the permanent coach, and Vogel rewarded the Pacers brass by leading the team to a second straight playoff appearance and their first playoff series win since 2005.
In the Eastern Conference semifinals, Indiana took a 2-1 lead on Miami but wound up losing the last three games to the eventual NBA champions.
This year has been rough for another reason -- the loss of All-Star forward Danny Granger, who has not played yet because of patellar tendinosis in his left knee.
While the veteran has stayed mostly quiet on the injury, Vogel said Tuesday that Granger’s recovery was on schedule. On Nov. 7, the Pacers said he could miss up to three months, meaning he could be back by mid-February.
Despite losing Granger, and a tough start, the Pacers have won 10 of their last 13 games. Nothing about Vogel’s tenure has been easy, yet he’s still managed to go 82-56, and his team has a share of the Central Division lead despite losing its top scorer.
“We had to be patient with our personnel, our young personnel and we had to adjust the offensive philosophy for what we were missing with Danny,” Vogel said. “I wouldn’t say we’re even there yet. It’s been a work in progress.”
One thing that has helped make things easier, though, is the development of forward Paul George.
“He’s continued to grow and with growth also comes confidence,” said LeBron James, who worked out with George during the summer. “The good thing, what’s been bad for them but good for him, is that they haven’t had Danny Granger, so it’s allowed him to grow and show more of what he can do.”
The decision to extend Vogel’s deal came just as Indiana was preparing to host Miami, the Southeast Division champ, for the first time this season. Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat know the Pacers are a physical team.
That’s just Vogel’s style, and he’s not about to change things now.
“I don’t know if I’ve changed a whole lot, to be honest with you,” Vogel said. “I know I have to be firm with the guys, and that I need to have a strong coach-player relationship. This is not a dictatorship that I’ve been running.”