Conrad Brunner Caught in the Web banner headline

Vogel Draws Inspiration From Interesting Sources

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

February 7, 2011

Three times in the past 23 years, circumstances have caused me to miss a Pacers game I otherwise would've covered. The first was to attend my best friend's wedding. The second was to be present for the birth of my second child. The third was Friday, when I loaded up the family and drove to Atlanta in order to host a joint birthday party for my parents, who both turn 90 this week.

Nothing against mom and dad but, man, I wish I'd been there Friday -- not so much for the solid victory over Portland, but Frank Vogel's postgame press conference, which ranks among the most interesting in franchise history.

Turns out, it isn't just a rotation tweak here, a playbook trim there. Vogel has much more ambitious plans for his tenure.

Like, for example, giving the team an entirely new identity.

"Optimism, positive energy, enthusiasm, hard work, blue-collar smash-mouth basketball, old-school basketball," he said. "I'm the youngest coach in the league but we're an old-school team now. We're simple. We win the war in the trenches with defense and rebounding." For inspiration, Vogel has turned to two rather divergent sources: Hubie Brown and Apollo Creed.

Brown was pushing 70 and had been out of coaching for 15 years when he stepped in as the Grizzlies' head coach in 2002. Vogel, an assistant with the Celtics, was in charge of scouting the opposing team's play calls. When it came time to break down the Grizzlies, Vogel was taken aback.

"I remember the first time we played them, I'm responsible for the other team's calls and I'm looking at their play sheet and there's about five plays," Vogel said. "They were the simplest plays, there was no action to them, just spacing, simple pick-and-roll, simple post-up.

"What did he do with that team? He took them right to the playoffs and they were a factor every year he was there. That team influenced my approach to this team."

The Grizzlies won 50 games under Brown in 2003-04, which remains the best season in franchise history.

Endeavoring to illustrate the mindset he wants from the players, Vogel showed the team a clip from Rocky II when Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who struggled to beat the unknown Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in the original movie was preparing for a rematch.

"It had to do with the fear that can be generated by a relentless underdog," Vogel said. " … (The trainer) looked him in the eye and said, 'I seen you beat that man like I never seen no man be beat before and that man kept coming after you.'

"No matter who we play, up 20, down 20, tied, we're going to keep coming after them. When we get in the playoffs, that final week or two of the season, all the (top) seeds, Boston, Miami, Orlando, they're not going to want to play this basketball team. That's what this is about."

The players clearly have responded to Vogel's approach.

"He’s young, he’s enthusiastic, and he’s having fun with his job and he’s trying to help us with our job," said Dahntay Jones. "That’s what was missing, just that little spark, a little confidence."