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Vogel Hopes to Keep Team Intact

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

May 29, 2012

The front office could undergo comprehensive change.

The coaching staff almost certainly will have a new face.

As for the team, well, Frank Vogel would be happy if things can remain the same—at least as much as possible.

Meeting with the media for the first time since the Pacers were eliminated 4-2 from the Eastern Conference semifinals by Miami last Thursday night, Vogel said he believed the present roster has enough room for growth from within to take the next step toward championship contention -- not only in 2012-13, but for years beyond.

"I hope the expectation is raised," Vogel said. "We've built something very, very special year and very, very sustainable. The way I look at this team is we've got a young core of guys that's going to grow together and we're going to have a chance to win it all every single year for the next five to seven years if we're able to keep the core in place.

"I think that's what the Colts had for eight to 10 years; it was't like every year was a Super Bowl year, but every year, you knew they had a chance. I think we're going to have a chance every year for the next five to seven years. That's what we've built with our young foundation and our mindset of having a smart salary cap structure."

The reasons for Vogel's optimism are multiple:

  • Five of the top eight players (starters Paul George, George Hill and Roy Hibbert and reserves Darren Collison and Tyler Hansbrough) are still young players on the rise;
  • Assuming potential restricted free agents Hibbert and Hill are re-signed, the entire starting lineup can return intact;
  • David West will have a full offseason of conditioning and preparation;
  • Vogel will have the first full training camp of his career to fine-tune his system;
  • The experience and confidence gained from the team's best regular season since 2003-04 and first extended playoff run since 2005 should become manifest.

"We're only scratching he surface," Vogel said. "We took a step. Hopefully we could've taken a bigger step than we did. We got matched up with Miami in the second round who's obviously a championship level ready and maybe we weren't there yet. But the team, basically,we've got a chance to do something really big and I think they all believe that now more than ever.

"You just look at the teams like Boston, Miami, San Antonio. These are teams that have cores of players in place that have been together for years and they have systems that have been executed for years. That's something we're still building. We've got a young core that is really exciting and has a lot of room for growth. And my system is brand new. This is not the Pat Riley family tree or Popovich system or Doc Rivers system that's been in place for years. My system is new, I'm a young coach and we've got a young core of players in place so I feel like we have more room for growth than any team that's competing for a championship right now."

While Vogel hopes for roster continuity, the franchise faces the potential for major changes elsewhere. Team President Larry Bird operates on a year-to-year agreement with owner Herb Simon and it is uncertain he will continue his tenure. Bird said a year ago he intended to step aside but stayed on as a favor to Simon.

General Manager David Morway reportedly is under consideration for top jobs in Portland and Orlando.

And Vogel expects to lose his right-hand man as Associate Head Coach Brian Shaw is on the list of candidates for just about every team with a coaching vacancy including Orlando and Charlotte.

"Honestly, I'd be shocked if he does come back," Vogel said. "I'm actually shocked he's not a head coach already. He's got it all. He's going to be one of the top five head coaches in the NBA for the next 10 years when he finally gets his shot. There's not a doubt in my mind that's going to happen.

"I had high expectations for him coming in and he flat-out blew me away and exceeded those expectations much like our team did with everything he does. He has no weaknesses to him at all in terms of being ready to be a head coach -- end-of-game situations, managing players, Xs and Os throughout the games, adjustments, substitution patterns, prep work in the film room. He's a workaholic. He's got some of that Phil Jackson swagger that helped us this year, that confidence and arrogance that Phil had that helped him have his teams overachieve every year. Brian's got all that."

There are few major contractual issues to resolve. Hibbert and Hill can become restricted free agents, meaning the Pacers have the ability to match any other offers, and they certainly intend to retain both. The unrestricted free agents are Leandro Barbosa, Lou Amundson, A.J. Price and Kyrylo Fesenko.

"I think you have to look at what's available more than what we need," Vogel said "I think we have no holes on our team. We're solid throughout. As you look at guys are available, you see if that's an area that makes sense to upgrade that position or whether it's just the bench in general or your starting core in general. You're really good right now. You don't want to change things up and hope to get better. You want to try to be smart about it and see what's available."

Bird will meet the media Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

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