With ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski announcing that Frank Vogel is going to be the next head coach of the Phoenix Suns, the organization can now begin planning for next season and what they hope will be a maiden NBA championship.
Vogel wasn’t the favorite to land the job once Monty Williams was canned, but came up on the inside of the track to overtake assistant coach Kevin Young and former Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse to get the job. His first since being let go of the Los Angeles Lakers 14 months ago, having led them to a championship back in 2020.
The idea of hiring Vogel has been seen as a divisive one, but this was the right veteran coach to add to this group and who came along at the perfect time.
Vogel’s name might not be the most appealing out there, but he ticks every box that the Suns need in their new leading man. Vogel has dealt with strong personalities before, and none come stronger than LeBron James. The four-time champion often seen as a kind of GM behind the scenes with whatever team he is a part of.
Vogel navigated those waters well, and alongside Anthony Davis and a strong supporting cast was able to get the Lakers over the hump in the bubble. The introduction of Russell Westbrook complicated matters, but as we have now seen, Vogel is far from the only coach who has struggled to implement the former MVP winner.
It is likely that the failure to mesh Westbrook with a winning duo was what got Vogel the sack in the first place, but he will be walking into a much more harmonious quartet of players this time around. Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul all seem to not only get along, but are serious in their pursuit of a championship.
DeAndre Ayton is the fourth member of that group, and although his head has been turned in the past, this is an excellent opportunity to work with a head coach who can take him to the next level. Vogel was known for his extremely impressive defensive work while with the Indiana Pacers, and he made center Roy Hibbert an elite rim protector.
There is no reason Vogel can’t do the same with Ayton, and turn him into the player the Suns need him to be to win a championship. It is not a stretch to say that the development of Ayton can be the x-factor here, and Vogel has the track record to be the kind of coach who can get a new lease of life out of the player.
He will also be able to manage Durant, who is now on his fourth team and who will be vocal if next season does not unfold like the franchise needs it to. The future of James Harden for example is up in the air with the Philadelphia 76ers right now, and while adding him would be disastrous to the Suns’ hopes of winning it all, Vogel could actually articulate this to Durant if he pled Harden’s case.
Durant is 34-years-old, and the idea of leading the Suns to their first ever championship has to appeal to somebody who has watched his two titles with the Golden State Warriors be ridiculed time and time again. That brings with it a lot of pressure, but James was in a similar boat trying to add to his legacy with the Lakers, and this was achieved under the bright lights of Los Angeles.
The underwhelming two-year stint with the Orlando Magic may be seen as a blemish on his record, but if anything this only strengthens the belief that Vogel is the right man for the job. The Magic were going through a prolonged rebuild during that time, and he showed that he was clearly not the right coach to see them through that.
His value isn’t in bringing along younger players and putting a long-team vision in place. It is about winning now, and that is what the Suns absolutely have to do over the next few years. Even the Pacers teams he was in charge of, although not true contenders, had Hibbert, Paul George, Danny Granger and George Hill.
The 2013-14 version of this group pushed a LeBron led Miami Heat to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and had only a single rookie in Solomon Hill on the roster. Vogel’s 439-389 record points to a competent coach, and somebody who is able to navigate a long regular season, before tackling the playoffs.
Finally, Vogel is going to be able to improve this group defensively, but also do so with players who are unheralded in the league. The Suns are going to struggle to add meaningful depth this summer, but Vogel will have this team set up in such a way that whoever they can bring in will be able to help on that end. Perhaps even a second round pick if he chooses to actually play them?
The Suns ranked seventh in the league in defensive rating (112.3) during the regular season, but most of that was achieved before Durant arrived, when Mikal Bridges was shutting down everybody around him. The group are going to slip some on that end, but Vogel will ensure it is minimal.
Really then this was the guy to get. Nurse was already off the board, and Doc Rivers was not a popular choice with fans. Frank Vogel is going to ensure that the Suns are in a position to compete for an NBA championship next season. With every year precious to this group, isn’t that all you can ask for?