Frank Vogel discusses his coaching path

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Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel sat down for an interview with Brooke Olzendam to discuss the impact of his coaching mentors, including Rick Pitino and Jim O'Brien. Vogel also discusses the path he took to reach the ranks of NBA head coach and the passion of Indiana basketball.


Brooke Olzendam: When you were named head coach in July, what was that feeling like?

Frank Vogel: It was incredible, I really wanted it. Mainly, from the prospective that I fell in love with this team so much. Over the last few years, we were building towards something. We really bonded and connected towards the end of this year and had a strong finish. I really wanted the opportunity to take it to the next level. My family and I love it out here in Indianapolis and it just gave me an opportunity to stay here.

Brooke: Playoffs, for the first time since 2006, that had to be seriously pride filling when that happened for you.

Frank: Yes, it was. Somebody asked me when I first took over: “What would it mean to take over and take this team back to the playoffs, where they should be?” I likened it to all those scenes in “Hoosiers” that give you chills. No matter how many times you watch that movie, you get chills. I said that’s what it would be like if I was able to do it, and that’s exactly what it was like.

Brooke: That’s what surprised me so much. It really is a religion here in Indiana, basketball. You hear it all the time, people tell you that. As soon as you get here, you realize it’s the truth.

Frank: Yea, they live and breathe basketball out here. It’s more important to people here than in anywhere in the country, really anywhere in the world. So, to be able to be the head coach of the Indiana Pacers is something special to me.

Brooke: At such a young age, what edge does that give you?

Frank: I don’t really know. I’m probably inexperienced enough to not take it too seriously. I’ve got relationships with our players that most coaches don’t get a chance to have because of my age and growing up near the same time frame as a lot of these guys. I think that can give you an edge in some ways.

Brooke: Well you started young as a video coordinator, from the ground up, it’s such an amazing journey you’ve had. Did you ever think that you get here so quickly?

Frank: I never thought I’d even be in the NBA. I was playing division three basketball and I wanted to find a way to work in basketball full-time. The way to do that was not in division three right away; you’d have to be a part-time assistant or whatever. So, I made the decision to transfer to Kentucky. Just so I could get my feet wet and maybe get a job in D-1. Maybe something, someday. But at any level in D-1, I would’ve been extremely thrilled with. Three years later, I’m the video coordinator for the Boston Celtics. It was pretty amazing.

Brooke: Who has been someone you’ve looked up to in these years, coaching style? Who do you look up to?

Frank: The top two guys, by a large margin are Rick Pitino and Jim O’Brien. They’re the guys that sort of facilitated my move to Kentucky. Coach O’Brien gave me my first break in convincing Rick to take me on as a student manager and a video assistant. What Rick did down in Kentucky, when he took over that program that was on probation. He came there and said “We’re gonna win, and we’re gonna win right away.” “We’re gonna do it by outworking everybody.” “Have a positive mindset, a positive energy.” It really was a story to fall in love with. That’s the approach I’ve always envisioned taking with whatever team I took over. I was able to implement some of it this year. That’s a style that’s gonna stay with me forever. Rick inspired me to take that leap, but, Coach O’Brien has sort of been with me every step of the way since. He’s responsible for every single one of my promotions from becoming a video coordinator, to becoming an assistant coach behind a bench, and then on the front of the bench, and then lead assistant. Really putting me in a position for all of this to happen.

Brooke: So you learned from all of those guys, and I’m sure a few others along the road, but what about you personally? What do you bring to coaching, Frank Vogel?

Frank: I think every coach brings their own personality. I’m sort of an optimist, a high energy type of enthusiastic guy. Someone that tries to be genuine with the players, I’m not a guy that’s going to come in and be a drill sergeant. But, I want to take each guy and say “Look, here’s what we got to do to help you succeed the most, to help our team succeed the most.” I want to be like a partner to these guys. My biggest job is to tie all the parts together, so that we form a strong team.