Caught in the Web Indiana Pacers blog: What's next for Vogel? Building a better offense

In 2nd year on job, Vogel plans to cultivate offense


With the assistance of Brian Shaw (R), Frank Vogel has the Pacers headed for a second straight playoff berth. (NBAE/Getty Images)
Jan. 31, 2012 - The list of accomplishments in Frank Vogel's first calendar year as head coach is impressive:
  • Changing the offensive identity of the team from 3-point gunners to low-post pounders;
  • Turning a notoriously soft defense into one of the toughest in the league;
  • Altering the rotations to include young players like Paul George and Tyler Hansbrough while building the confidence of center Roy Hibbert (among others);
  • Bringing an entirely new, positive, youthful culture to the team;
  • Reinforcing the players' sense that they can be something other than mediocre.
For any coach to tick all those boxes in such a short period of time is impressive. For a guy that hadn't done it before, it is much more. That's why he has been able to take a team that was 10 games under .500 last Jan. 30 (17-27) and headed back to the lottery and turn it into a team that has gone 10 games over .500 in his tenure (33-23) and seems destined for a second consecutive playoff berth.

"It's amazing what he's done, how he's transformed us and how he's given us a different identity," Danny Granger said. "It's really quite remarkable."

In Vogel's mind, the biggest key was getting the players to believe. When he took over from Jim O'Brien, one of his first statements was that he thought this should be a playoff team, a goal that appeared out of reach at the time but was achieved after a 20-17 finish. It wasn't rhetoric. Vogel was convinced the talent was there. He just had to convince the talent.

"I think it probably has the most to do with belief," Vogel said. "That's the biggest hurdle when you're going from being a lottery team to a playoff team, finding a way to believe that you can do it and that you're good enough. We had some building blocks last year, every little success that we had we made sure we really highlighted that with our guys and tried to get them to believe."

The players not only like Vogel, they respect him and assistants Brian Shaw, Jim Boylen and Dan Burke. They see the adjustments made before, during and after games. They hear the positive reinforcement and heed the tough talk.

"He's tough when he has to be and he's always encouraging," Roy Hibbert said. "And he makes us believe in ourselves, in the team, in the concept and in the fact that we can win now as opposed to staying in a rebuilding phase."

As much as the Pacers have accomplished under Vogel, there is much to be done. The defense has solidified but the offense remains erratic. Vogel is still learning how best to use new weapons David West and George Hill while the players are adapting to a system that demands movement, unselfishness and the ability to read and react to the defense.

"I keep telling our guys we have a chance to be scary good offensively from the standpoint of having size and the ability to pound teams inside but also we have speed," Vogel said. "Most teams in the league have one or the other. We've got a chance to have both.

"Our tempo is really starting to come, we've got a strong post presence with our frontcourt guys and our wing guys' ability to post. The combination of size and speed developing into an offensive force is what I look to come."

Making the playoffs was good enough last year. Winning a series is the primary goal this season. A top-four seed and homecourt advantage in the first round is within reach but will not be easily grasped.

To even be having this discussion is a tribute to Vogel, his staff and the players' ability to succeed while making comprehensive changes.

"We've had dramatic improvement but I still don't think we've scratched the surface of what we can be," Vogel said. "I don't know what the ceiling is with this team or if it has a ceiling. I think the sky's the limit."

When other people say those words, they sound cliché. Somehow, when hearing them from Vogel, you just can't help but believe.

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