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Bird, Vogel Hope To Remain With Pacers

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

April 28, 2011

Larry Bird and Frank Vogel met the media Thursday morning at Conseco Fieldhouse but after their separate sessions concluded the two biggest questioned remained unanswered. Will Bird be back to run the team next season and beyond?

Will Vogel remain as coach?

Those two, along with virtually every other member of the basketball staff, are wrapping up the final seasons of their contracts. Vogel's status depends largely upon that of Bird. And the team President's status hinges on an upcoming meeting with owner Herb Simon.

"The big question of mine to him is, 'Now we have the money, are we going to be able to spend it? We waited three years to get to this point, now what can we do? What are you going to let us do?' " Bird said. "There's a lot of questions that are going to be asked and I want to see what direction he wants to go."

Bird said he hoped to meet with Simon "in the next week or two" while making it clear he was hoping for a quick resolution.

"I would like to settle this today so we can get moving here but I do have an owner," he said. "I have a boss and he wants me to go through the draft. Hopefully in the next week or two I can find out what's going on and we can get some things done. We've got a lockout looming and it's really on his timetable."

Will Bird be able to finish what he started?

Bird has been with the franchise 11 of the past 14 years, the first three as head coach, the past eight in the front office. He assumed full control of basketball operations prior to the 2008-09 season facing a bloated payroll and disjointed roster and pledged the team would reach the playoffs in three years. That goal was achieved with the first postseason berth since 2006, a five-game first-round loss to Chicago.

Now Bird is poised for the summer he has been building toward. A talented young nucleus is in place; all five starters are among the 10 players under contract for 2011-12; and there will be salary cap space with which to complement the existing core.

"I understand our situation here with the Pacers the last three years. We've lost a lot of money," Bird said. "I know that Mr. Simon doesn't want to jump back in there and be up against the (luxury) tax again right away. We've got to be selective in who we draft and who we go get in free agency. I understand all that.

"But if you're going to be competitive in this league and you're in a situation to be competitive, you've got to take advantage of it."

Vogel did an excellent but will he get the job?

The Pacers went 20-18 after Vogel replaced Jim O'Brien. In his first head coaching experience, Vogel implemented comprehensive changes in midstream, altering the lineup, rotations and offensive and defensive schemes. Throughout it all he remained a fountain of enthusiasm, unafraid to make bold statements that reflected his belief in the talent.

"I think Frank did an excellent job," said Bird, "stepping in without the experience of a head-coaching job and the way he conducted himself, he brought positive energy to this team."

Vogel said he believed it necessary for the decision-makers to take their time, step back and evaluate the situation with clear heads before moving forward. He also made it abundantly clear he wants to remain both because of his allegiance to the franchise but his family's happiness in its home of the past five years.

"I've got a great deal of confidence in my ability to coach," Vogel said. "It's one thing I've learned over the last three months, that I can do this. I'm confident in my leadership abilities, my management abilities, my coaching abilities. It's been an honor to have these last three months, it would be an honor to coach the team in the future."

In the meantime, it all depends on how things go when Simon meets with Bird.

"If I like what I hear I'll probably be back," Bird said. "But if there's some things he sees in the job performance I did and he's not comfortable with it, it might be time for a new voice."