Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel is busy preparing his team for
the Eastern Conference finals, a best-of-seven series beginning Wednesday night
against the Miami Heat, the reigning NBA champions.
Before heading to Miami for Game 1, Vogel took some time after
practice Monday to check in with NUVO.
NUVO: Are you aware of the buzz and excitement that you and the
team have brought back to Indy?
Vogel: Yes I am. I feel it everywhere I go, every time I leave my
house, going to the store or the mall or restaurants. I get a lot of
compliments and thanks for turning the team around and for bringing Pacer
basketball back to the forefront. You know, buzz is the right word for it. It
started with the playoffs a couple years ago against the Bulls. People saw the
future that we had and now all the young players have grown into their own and
each of the last couple of years it just got greater and greater.
NUVO: You just defeated the New York Knicks. Can you select two
key moments from the series that stand out to you?
Vogel: I think the first moment was in Game 1. We had just won
the elimination game in Atlanta and we clinched that series on their home
court. We knew we had an uphill battle against a New York Knicks team who were
playing as well as anybody in the NBA the last six weeks of the season. We went
in there with such poise and composure, in light of a hostile environment, and
steal Game 1 in the series. It really was the difference of us winning that
series. You have to win one game on their court, and the home team held serve the rest of the series.
Definitely in Game 6 when New York was making their final charge
and really raising the level of their play ... Carmelo had 39 points and they
were perfect from the free-throw line, making 13 three-pointers, five in the
third quarter, and really trying to take back control of the series. Then
Carmelo goes up to dunk it and Roy Hibbert comes out of nowhere and has one of
the best blocks the NBA playoffs have ever seen. And from that point forward we
controlled the game.
NUVO: How are you preparing for playing a team like the Heat?
Vogel: We are just preparing for all their strengths and
weaknesses. I think the New York series helped us prepare for the Miami Heat.
Both teams are terrific defensively at forcing turnovers and that's
been a weakness of ours at certain points this year. We were able to sort of
solve those issues by Game 6 in the Knicks series where we only had nine
turnovers. That has really been the greatest point of emphasis, taking care of
the basketball. The outcome of a turnover will be different with the Heat
because if you turn the ball over it's
going to be a dunk show, (laughs), so that's
the biggest thing we have to do is take care of the basketball.
NUVO: Can you compare the preparation for a player like Michael
Jordan in the playoffs versus what you are doing now getting ready for LeBron
Vogel: LeBron is more of a facilitator. He's
a pass-first guy that finds a way to play highly efficient and can score in bunches as well. Michael was just a dominate,
pure scorer. We had the idea that a team can beat any "big
The Heat are playing as a team and LeBron has a lot to
do with that. They're
not just the big three. They play a team brand of basketball and that''s
a big reason for their success.
NUVO: When your team is showing signs of slacking or poor play is
there a go-to message you deliver to them?
Vogel: We always rely on our togetherness. Things are going to be
going good at times and bad at times throughout the course of the game or
season. We just have to make sure we always strive for our togetherness. We
feel like togetherness is something that you achieve, not something that you
put together with contracts in the summertime. It's
something that everybody has to work for. How do you play for each other? How
do you respect your teammates in the locker room? That's
just always the message. When any situation comes up where we're
struggling, we just have to make sure we stay together and play harder than the
NUVO: Do you get much sleep during the playoffs?
Vogel: (Laughs) I don''t
really get enough sleep, probably. I do make sure I try to manage it the best I
can because you have to have a sharp mind to coach this game, especially at
this level. As much as you're
tempted to continue to grind, it is important to get your rest and make sure
you are mentally sharp as well.
NUVO: How is the chess match between coaches
different in the playoffs?
Vogel: The playoffs are more of a chess match because
playing the same team over and over again. There are less moving parts than the
regular season. In the playoffs, it's
the same weapons one game they will have the next game, so you have to analyze
and anticipate the moves they're
gonna make while at the same time evaluating what
moves you have to make.
NUVO: Which coach has been the most influential to
your coaching style?
Vogel: The guys I worked for, Jim O'Brien
and Rick Pitino, had a great influence on me. From the standpoint of studying
the NBA game I was always a big fan of Phil Jackson and his approach. Obviously
he had great players, but there were a lot of coaches with great players that
win at the level he did. That was a big reason why I hired [Pacers associate head
coach] Brian Shaw. He was as close to Phil as anyone could be and I thought I
could rely on that experience and it's
NUVO: Indy 500 ... ever been?
Vogel: I have not. I say I'm
going to go every year and something always comes up that I don't
end up going, but I do plan on going one day.
NUVO: Favorite driver?
Vogel: Ed Carpenter, being a local hero, is someone
that I like to see do well.
NUVO: What are some of your favorite things?
big on the backyard barbecue and entertaining neighbors. Letting all the kids
run around in backyards in our neighborhood in Carmel. I'm
a pizza-holic, it''s
my favorite food. Just cheese and pepperoni, I like to keep it simple.
NUVO: What music are you into? Any songs you listen
to in the car on your way in before a big game to help motivate you?
Vogel: Songs that motivate me ... well, I've
always been a fan of the song, "I
Got a Feeling"
by the Black Eyed Peas, but not in the car though. There really is not music I
listen to before a game to get pumped up. I'm
kind of a mainstream guy. I listen to the Smiley show in the morning, and I like
the kind of music they play.
NUVO: Name three famous people you would like to sit
down and have dinner with.
Vogel: Phil Jackson, obviously a coaching icon. Jerry
Seinfeld is an incredible legend from a comedy stand point
and I'm a
huge fan of that show, and Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors ... and
President Obama, add him too.
Mark Dubec's career includes stops in California and
Indiana working as a TV host, film critic, and entertainment reporter. Check
him out on Twitter @markdubec and at markdubec.com.