Although there was a long road to get there, the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately landed on former Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to replace former head coach Luke Walton.
Vogel is very much different from Walton, especially in terms of coaching experience. Vogel has 16 years of experience as a head coach and assistant coach, highlighted by his six seasons with the Pacers.
Walton, on the other hand, only had a handful of years of experience as an assistant coach before landing the Lakers head coach job. Though Walton certainly showed promise, there were immediately questions about whether he could handle everything that comes with coaching LeBron James.
With former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue nearly replacing Walton, some have wondered whether James would be on board with Vogel’s hiring. However, ccording to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, Vogel’s battles with James in the Eastern Conference playoffs established respect:
Vogel has LeBron’s respect. He coached the Pacers for six years, and in three of them his season ended in the playoffs against LeBron’s Heat. Once, in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, the series went to a Game 7. LeBron is not going to hold it against Vogel that the only reason he hasn’t been to the Finals as a coach is thrice his teams ran into him, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat.
It is important to notes James did show up to Vogel’s introductory press conference, but Vogel himself didn’t see it as much of a big deal:
“It was nice to see him show up, but I don’t think it would’ve meant anything if he wasn’t there,” Vogel said. “But it certainly falls in line with my idea that he and I are on the same page and we’re excited about working together.”
James’ toughest challenge during his historic run in the Eastern Conference was undoubtedly the Vogel-led Pacers where they matched up against each other for three consecutive seasons. The 34-year-old has seen what Vogel is capable of up close and personal, so it makes sense that he would have his respect.
At that press conference, Vogel stressed the need for togetherness throughout the organization from the top down. Whether or not James’ appearance meant anything is up to interpretation, but as long as he buys into what Vogel is preaching, it should make things much easier for the rest of the roster to do so as well.