Frank Vogel Wants Magic to Utilize Speed and Athleticism

By John Denton
May 24, 2016

ORLANDO – A true mark of a great basketball coach is someone who can adapt with the changing times in today’s NBA and adjust their system to fit the talent available.

Whereas Frank Vogel once had big-time success in Indiana by using a methodical, grind-it-out system that was rooted in physical defense, he is now vowing to pick up the pace in Orlando to maximize the potential of a Magic roster that is loaded with young, springy legs, blinding speed and gazelle-like athleticism.

Vogel, who was hired by the Magic on Friday and introduced in a news conference on Monday, is vowing that he will be flexible in how he goes about building a winner in Orlando. He sees no reason why the Magic can’t overwhelm foes with the athleticism and youth of Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja, while also building a stingy defense that will make it tough for others to score. Vogel said he welcomes the introduction of analytics into the game of basketball and he has no problem adapting to the ``small ball’’ and ``space and pace’’ styles so prevalently used in today’s game.

``Every style is dictated by the personnel you have on your roster,’’ said Vogel, who becomes Orlando’s 13th coach in franchise history. ``We had some teams (in Indiana) that were built around size and strength, so you have to play to that strength, play to that style of play.

``We did pick it up, from a play standpoint, dramatically this past season because we changed our personnel a little bit,’’ Vogel continued. ``There was more a desire to do so. I have a great desire to play up and down, a great desire. I feel like we have the athleticism and youth (in Orlando) to achieve that, right away. As these guys grow they will get better year after year, but it is predicated on your personnel.’’

Vogel, 42, feels that he was unfairly labeled as a coach who continually choked down the game and kept the Pacers from playing an up-tempo style in Indiana. And the numbers back up his argument.

Whereas the Pacers ranked 28th and 27th in fast break points in 2013-14 and 2014-15, they improved to 12th this past season. Also, Indiana was 23rd and 26th in points off turnovers in 2013-14 and 2014-15, but jumped all the way into a tie for first in that category this past season. Those teams of two and three years ago included lumbering big men Roy Hibbert and David West, while this past season’s squad focused more around the running abilities of Paul George, Monta Ellis, George Hill and young big man Myles Turner.

When Vogel’s contract was allowed to run out in Indiana following a Game 7 loss to the second-seeded Toronto Raptors, the assumption coursing throughout the NBA was that the coach was resistant to playing up-tempo basketball as Pacers president Larry Bird wanted. Bird said before the season that he wanted Indy to experiment playing Paul George more at power forward in an attempt to help the team score more points and play at a faster pace.

That experiment was scrapped early in the season when George balked at the physical toll that position switch would take on his body and because Vogel liked having two bigger players on the floor to help with rebounding and rim protection. Vogel said recently that his departure from Indiana had more to do with Bird wanting the team to hear a new voice than some disagreement over the style of play.

``No, that’s a misconception about this whole deal. Larry and I have been very well aligned all the way through these six years, including the decision to try and play faster and smaller,’’ Vogel said Monday morning on ESPN’s ``Mike and Mike’’ radio show. ``This is not something I was resistant to.

``It’s a style of play that I am going to try and implement with the Orlando Magic. We’re going to try and get up and down and run the floor,’’ Vogel vowed. ``There was a lot made when this all came out about Larry vs. Frank and their differences, but really throughout the whole process we were very well aligned. It was just a matter of a feeling that a change in the voice of the head coach could give the franchise a boost. It wasn’t about a difference of opinion or a difference in philosophy; it was really just about change.’’

Orlando made a 10-win improvement this past season largely by improving their defense early in the season and picking up the pace under new head coach Scott Skiles. Before Skiles abruptly resigned as Orlando’s coach on May 12, the Magic jumped up to fifth in the NBA in points off turnovers and 16th in fast break points this past season.

While those were marked improvements over the previous two seasons, Orlando still has room to grow in terms of scoring (18th in the NBA), 3-point attempts (22nd), offensive rating (22nd) and pace (14th). Indiana, which won 45 games this past season under Vogel, ranked 17th in scoring, 20th in 3-point attempts, 23rd in offensive rating and 10th in pace.

Vogel vowed that he is a strong proponent of pushing the pace and that’s what he plans on having the Magic doing next season.

``I think this Magic team has really good speed and we can do it even better than we did in Indianapolis,’’ Vogel said. ``I think Aaron Gordon’s ability to play at the power forward position in today’s game gives you four guys who can push it and run and that’s incredibly valuable. That’s not even mentioning what Vic can do and what Elfrid can do. Evan can run and Hezonja’s ability to run the floor and have that electricity when he attacks the basket and finishes – I think this could be an exceptional running team and that’s the style that we’re going to play.’’

Again, great coaches take the personnel that they have on hand and fit their system around it. Vogel insisted that the teams that he coached in Indiana and the ones he will lead in Orlando are vastly different and therefore his style of coaching will adjust and adapt as well.

``We grinded it out a couple of years there in Indianapolis because that’s what the personnel dictated and the style of play that group needed to play with,’’ said Vogel, who twice guided Indy teams to the Eastern Conference Finals. ``But I believe that this game is meant to be played in attack mode. And I really believe we have the speed and athleticism to do that with this (Magic) group.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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