Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel, despite a 56-win season that secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, is “coaching for his job,” ESPN.com reported Wednesday.
Following Indiana’s 101-85 triumph over Atlanta in Game 2 of the teams’ first-round playoff series, sources told ESPN.com that coming back to win the series against the Hawks would not automatically guarantee Vogel’s job.
The Pacers got off to a 40-11 start, but then went just 16-15 the rest of the way before a loss in the series opener to the eighth-seeded Hawks.
The decision on whether to retain Vogel at season’s end will rest with Pacers president Larry Bird.
Bird made in-season moves to acquire forward Evan Turner from Philadelphia and add center Andrew Bynum for bench depth on top of last summer’s additions of forward Luis Scola and point guard C.J. Watson, The moves were made to get the Pacers closer to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2000, when Bird was the coach.
There are reports of fighting among teammates.
ESPN.com sources confirmed a Yahoo! Sports report that Turner and guard Lance Stephenson got into a practice-floor fight on the eve of Game 1 against Atlanta. Sources told ESPN.com it wasn’t the first time in recent weeks that Stephenson has clashed with a teammate.
ESPN.com also reported that Stephenson and guard George Hill had to be separated on the bench during a 26-point home loss to San Antonio on March 31.
Questions about Vogel’s job security began in March after Bird told The Indianapolis Star that he has been disappointed at times this season.
“A lot of times, we don’t take the fight to (the opponent),” Bird told the newspaper on March 11. “A lot of times we sit back and wait and see how it goes. And that was the case even when we were winning a lot of games early in the season. We’ve got to be mentally prepared to really go after the teams we’re playing against. We can’t have the mindset it’s just another game; it’s a very important game. All of them are.
“I’m sort of going to Frank’s side because he’s had so much success by staying positive. We do have to stay the course. But I also think he’s got to start going after guys when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do. And stay on them, whether you’ve got to take them out of the game when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do, or limit their minutes. I will say, he hasn’t done that enough.”
During the last week of the regular season, Bird told local ABC affiliate WRTV-6 that “I back Frank 100 percent.”
Vogel received a two-year contract extension during the 2012-13 season that has him under contract through next year.