As the Indiana Pacers tumbled to a 16-14 record after the All-Star break, Frank Vogel was reportedly said to be coaching for his job. Those rumors haven't quieted even after the Pacers reached to the Eastern Conference finals before falling to the Miami Heat in six games, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Stein suggests the Vogel may have been fired had Indiana been eliminated by Atlanta or Washington earlier in the playoffs, and the team president Larry Bird will still have a tough decision to make.
Yet there's no escaping the fact that Vogel was awarded his current extension -- which runs through the 2015-16 season -- when team president Larry Bird was on a one-year hiatus. The fact Bird openly questioned Vogel's player-friendly approach during the regular season has only added volume to the belief that Vogel's seat is warming. That he’s not stern enough for Bird’s liking.
The juiciest part of Stein's report is who Indiana could tab as a potential replacement: former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. Jackson was fired this offseason following the Warriors' first round playoff exit because of a contentious relationship with ownership. Questions of race, religion and coaching style complicated the decision, as did locker room turmoil that led to the departure of two assistants.
So, would the Pacers really can Vogel and hire Jackson?
Why this makes sense
The Pacers collapsed in such public fashion that it wouldn't be a surprise if the front office decided to shake things up. The Pacers will face a big decision on 23-year-old shooting guard Lance Stephenson as he enters unrestricted free agency, but the rest of the starting five is under contract. After losing to the Heat in the playoffs for the third straight year in a season that was defined by inter-team dysfunction, letting go of Vogel might be the easiest way to change the culture around the team.
Jackson was a star point guard for the Pacers as a player from 1994-2000, helping Indiana reach the conference finals four times and the NBA Finals once. Bird coached the Pacers the last three seasons Jackson was on the team, including during their run the NBA Finals in 2000.
Stein reports that Pacers executive Donnie Walsh is also a big fan of Jackson, but didn't want to hire him until he had coaching experience. After compiling a 121-109 record in three seasons with the Warriors, Jackson has now fulfilled that requirement.
Why this doesn't make sense
Vogel has been on the job for 3.5 seasons, and the Pacers have found an identity as a tough-minded defensive team under his watch. Indiana finished No. 1 in defensive efficiency this season thanks in large part to Vogel's ability to develop Roy Hibbert. Paul George and Stephenson as players. The 56 wins Indiana posted this season was the most the franchise has seen since 2004 when Rick Carlisle guided the team to a 61-21 record.
Bird might see Jackson as someone who can manage the personalities in the locker room more adeptly than Vogel, but it's not like Jackson comes without baggage. After so much drama in the second half of this season, would the Pacers really want to a hire a coach that was responsible for a spectacle that was nearly as big in Golden State?