With Vogel gone, what’s next for the Pacers?

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Updated: May 5, 2016
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The Indiana Pacers were eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs by the Toronto Raptors in a seven-game series. But, there’s still hope that the franchise is very close to becoming a legit competitor in the Eastern Conference. Most of their future was based off how star Paul George returned from the gruesome leg injury he sustained in 2014. It’s safe to say he’s fine, because he came back with a vengeance and played at a superstar level all season.

In addition to George, the emergence of rookie Myles Turner helped Indiana tremendously with added depth to their frontcourt. It appears that both Turner and George are the future of the franchise. But, who will be the man in charge moving forward?

Early Thursday, team president Larry Bird announced that Frank Vogel will no longer be the head coach of the Pacers.

“Decided it’s time for a new voice around here,” Bird said. “Sometimes my job really sucks. I had time to think about it and watch the team throughout the year. I had higher expectations than most people on how our team should play. I came to a conclusion it’s time for these guys to hear a new voice. Made a decision not to renew.”

Vogel finished with a 250-181 regular-season record during his time in Indiana, including a 31-30 record in the postseason. It’s a fair assessment to agree that Vogel is a great coach. But with all the inconsistency with the lineup this season, quite frankly, as Bird stated, the team underachieved. Regardless, Vogel now becomes the hottest free-agent head coach on the market, and Indiana becomes a top destination for free-agent players.

The future appears to be bright for this Pacers team. They have a superstar in George, and a young big man with a ton of potential in Turner. With these young stars, Bird can now focus on what kind of system he wants to run. Many sources indicate that he wants to switch to a more fast-paced style, and higher-scoring offense.

“I’d like to score more points than what we’re scoring,” Bird said. “Defense with [assistant coach] Dan Burke has been great, like it has been every year. It’s all about scoring points. If your defense is better, you don’t have to score as many, but you’d like to score as many as you can.”

If that’s indeed the case, it explains why Bird decided not to retain Vogel as the leader of this team.

There’s also another side to the story. Perhaps Bird needs to receive some feedback as well. Too much blame was placed on Vogel’s shoulders. For a couple seasons now, the Pacers’ front office has been receiving some criticism for their offseason moves. The first mistake while Vogel was at the helm, was drafting Kawhi Leonard, then trading him to San Antonio for guard George Hill. Hill is a talented player, but not anywhere near the level of Leonard.

Passing on Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green the following year in the 2012 NBA draft also didn’t help. Instead, they decided to go with Duke center Miles Plumlee, who’s no longer on the roster. And most recently, they overpaid for Monta Ellis.

Looking ahead, Indiana may have a legitimate shot to land a few big-name players in free agency. One player they should heavily consider is Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. For years now, the Pacers haven’t had a true point guard to lead the team. This has to be a top priority for the franchise. And regardless of who’s hired as head coach, they have to bring someone in to help George with the scoring load.

There’s already been a few names in the discussion to replace Vogel.

One person that could be a candidate is someone who actually played for Bird during his tenure as coach of the Pacers — Mark Jackson. The Warriors wouldn’t be where they are without Jackson. Basically, teams were just waiting for Jackson to express interest in making a return to the sideline. He’s expected to interview with the Sacramento Kings within’ the next week, so that shows he’s serious about returning to coaching.

It will have to be an offer he can’t refuse if he wants to return from the booth, and Indiana could be just the place. He’d step into a competitive Eastern Conference playoff team with a young superstar, a young player with a ton of potential, and some cap space.

I don’t anticipate this process to take very long, especially with the NBA draft taking place next month and free agency approaching soon. It’ll be important to already have a coach, and plan, in place prior to that.

DC Hendrix

DC Hendrix

Report for Sideline Sports Report. Producer/Host for ESPN 1380 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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