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Vogel Finds Fit with Popeye Jones

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

August 14, 2013

The final piece to the Pacers coaching staff is in place. Popeye Jones officially signed his contract on Wednesday to join Frank Vogel’s staff.

For the past three years, Jones was on Avery Johnson’s staff in New Jersey/Brooklyn. The 43-year-old will take over big man responsibilities, after Jim Boylen left in June to be Gregg Popovich’s top assistant in San Antonio.

“Popeye has a great knowledge for the game, particularly the big man game,” Vogel said on Wednesday. “He obviously played the position at a really high level, and overachieved sort of as a player. He has really grown over the last six years, in terms of being a student of the game and really studying coaching and growing his knowledge of Xs and Os and his game preparations. We’re a big man team and he’s got an expertise in that field, so I think he’s going to be a strong addition to our staff.”

Jones is the second coaching hire Vogel has had to make this summer. Former NBA head coach Nate McMillan replaced Brian Shaw more than a month ago following Denver’s hiring of Shaw as head coach. Dan Burke, who’s been with the team since Larry Bird hired him in 1997, remains on staff.

As one would expect, an assistant role in the NBA is highly coveted, especially with a team like the Pacers that is in line to compete for a championship.

“I looked at a lot of names,” Vogel said of the process. “You get an opening on a staff in the NBA, you’re going to get 100 phone calls. There’s a long process involved with it but it’s really one that I’ve enjoyed and spent a lot of my summer meeting with guys and talking with people and learning about people. To see Popeye come out of that is a credit to him. He’s a good man.”

The Pacers have stayed busy during what’s turned out to be the not-so-off-season. First, Larry Bird returned as president, followed by the draft. Later, McMillan came on board, the Pacers signed David West to a three-year deal, signed free agents C.J. Watson, Donald Sloan and Chris Copeland, and acquired Luis Scola.

After coming up just one win away from their second Finals appearance in NBA franchise history, the Pacers kept the core intact while getting a much-needed facelift to their bench. With the changes to the coaching staff, getting comfortable and on the same page with each other will be one of the team’s biggest keys heading into the 2013-14 season.

Vogel agreed.

“No question,” he said. “We’ve got a formula in place, a culture in place to understand that chemistry gets re-established every year. We have to re-achieve it every year. You either have changes or you don’t have changes so we’re definitely looking forward to building that coaching staff chemistry and having it spill over into the locker room.”

Roy Hibbert, who has worked out with Popeye at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since before the deal became official, approves of Vogel’s hiring.

“[Popeye] worked with Brook [Lopez] for a number of years n he's pretty damn good. So I'm happy to have him on staff,” Hibbert wrote last week on Twitter.

Prior to becoming an assistant with the Nets in 2010, Jones spent four years with the Dallas Mavericks in a player development capacity. After playing four years at Murray State, he was drafted 41st overall in the 1992 draft by Houston. He retired in 2004 after 11 seasons (averaging seven points and 7.4 rebounds over his career) in the league with six different teams.

Jones still holds the Mavericks single-game record for most rebounds in a game, which he set against the Pacers, grabbing 28 boards on Jan. 9, 1996.

The Pacers open the 2013-14 season at home against the Orlando Magic on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. EST.

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