Frank Vogel’s Case for Coach of the Year


Frank Vogel’s first season as Lakers head coach has not garnered enough consideration for its excellence. While expectations skyrocketed after the Lakers’ busy offseason and regular season, Vogel delivered what should be a Coach of the Year (COY) performance.

Vogel was hired after the Lakers parted ways with Luke Walton amid a perceived unsuccessful few seasons. He joined a franchise tainted by management concerns regarding the dealings of the front office and LeBron James.

Despite reportedly not being the Lakers’ first choice, Vogel surrounded himself with coaching titans and got to work. His willingness to hold each player to a high standard has set the tone for the Lakers’ 49-14 run so far.

His management of game flow and adjustments, in-game and between games, has been stellar. The All-Star Game head coach has been crucial to the Lakers’ first-place standing in the Western Conference (second in the NBA overall).

Vogel vs. Other COTY Candidates

Frank Vogel’s case for COY is stronger than a few other notable candidates:

  1. Mike Budenholzer (Bucks) – How surprising has the Bucks’ regular season performance been given last regular season (60-22, 1st in East)? Granted, the Bucks are on pace for more wins, which can strengthen Budenholzer’s case. But the Lakers’ improvement this year has been more drastic and Vogel has been an important reason why.
  2. Nick Nurse (Raptors) – Similarly, Nick Nurse has done an excellent job with the Raptors given the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Most of the championship core remains, however, and Toronto’s regular season performance, relative to last year, is similar (second place in both years).
  3. Brad Stevens (Celtics) – While enjoying a slightly better regular season performance this year (fourth place last year), the Celtics could arguably be better. Boston is currently third in the standings behind the Bucks and Raptors. However, the Celtics recent form suggests that, when healthy, they could be a nightmare for any team in the NBA.
  4. Billy Donovan (Thunder) – Donovan also has a strong case for COY. He currently coaches the league’s best lineup and has contributed to the team’s unbelievable season. The Thunder are fifth in the West, however, which is only marginally better than last year (sixth place in 2019).
  5. Mike Malone (Nuggets) – Denver is third in the West, which is slightly lower than its standing a season ago (second place in 2019). Malone has the sleeper Nuggets playing well, but not quite as well as the Lakers under Vogel.
  6. Doc Rivers (Clippers) – The case for Rivers is strong given the strong performance of the Clippers and improvement from last season. Still, the Lakers’ turnaround has been much more drastic in comparison.

Best coaching job of career? 

  • 2013-14 (Pacers): Offensive efficiency: 22nd; Defensive efficiency: first; Record: 56-26; Finish: Eastern Conference Finals appearance
  • 2019-20 (Lakers): Offensive efficiency: fifth, Defensive efficiency: third, Record: 49-14 (First in Western Conference), Finish: to be decided

Moreover, Vogel may be having his best season as a head coach. His stint in Indiana proved to previously be his top moment as a head coach. His Pacers teams obviously used to frustrate and push one of his current high-profile players.

Now, Vogel and that former high-profile player, LeBron James, are seeking to contribute to the Lakers first playoff appearance since 2013. While Vogel has had some stellar performances as a head coach, this may be his greatest chance to earn a championship.

Undeniably, the Lakers have immense talent on the roster and that makes coaching seemingly much easier. The right alchemist, however, knows how to use the right ingredients to concoct the right potion– and Vogel has done a job that would make Michael Faraday proud!

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About Tamba Mondeh

1st-year law student. Stillman College, The University of Alabama, and Duke University alum.

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