Frank Vogel to be hired as Phoenix Suns head coach

Jun 2, 2023, 9:31 AM | Updated: 10:07 am

The Phoenix Suns have agreed on a deal with former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel to replace Monty Williams, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN Adrian Wojnarowski.

The hiring was confirmed by Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro. He adds that there is a chance Vogel retains Williams’ top assistant, Kevin Young, who was a finalist for the head-coaching job along with former Philadelphia 76ers head man Doc Rivers.

Charania reports that Vogel’s deal is for five years and $31 million.

Williams was fired in mid-May after four seasons in Phoenix.

Vogel, who becomes the Suns’ first head-coaching hire under owner Mat Ishbia, has been a head coach for three different teams across 11 seasons for a record of 431-389. His two biggest accomplishments were helping the Indiana Pacers rise to prominence in the early 2010s and then winning a championship with the Lakers in 2020.

From 2001-11, Vogel was an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Pacers. In 2011, Vogel was a mid-season replacement as interim head coach and helped get Indiana to the playoffs. He was then given a permanent position as head coach.

Vogel quickly established himself as a sharp defensive mind, getting the Pacers into the top-10 of defensive rating for his first full season. Behind a young core led by Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Lance Stephenson, plus veteran David West, the Pacers a year later would have the first of two memorable battles with LeBron James’ Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Vogel’s squad took the Heat to seven games in 2013 and fell in six for the 2014 edition.

George, who was considered one of the best players in the game at just 24 years old, suffered a season-ending injury in the offseason while playing for Team USA. That put Indiana down to just 38 wins for the 2014-15 season, and after the wing’s return around a new-look supporting cast, the Pacers returned to the playoffs the next year but were bounced in the first round.

Vogel’s contract had run out and it was not renewed.

Indiana dealt George that offseason in the fear he would not re-sign with the team and walk for nothing, beginning a rebuild.

Fifteen days after being let go, Vogel was hired by the Orlando Magic. That did not go as well, where Vogel’s two seasons saw troubles with developing young talent on a flawed roster. He went 54-110 and was fired after two seasons, notably by a new general manager, who replaced the GM that hired Vogel a year in.

Vogel’s last head-coaching job was with the Lakers, a run that began in 2019. This was more like Indiana, with Vogel’s ability to develop a championship-caliber defense as the base of the team’s prowess.

With LeBron James and Anthony Davis, that was enough to win a title after a run through the Disney bubble following a COVID-19 restart of the NBA. The structure of that team with two superstars could point to a blueprint Vogel and the Suns could use once again with a roster built around Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.

A broken L.A. roster, which was constantly dealing with injuries to Davis and James, gave Vogel little to work with over the next two years. The Lakers went 42-30 and 33-49, respectively. Vogel was fired in 2022 and replaced by Darvin Ham, but it was widely believed that he was not the problem. Ham’s success in leading the Lakers to the conference finals this past season came after Los Angeles went through a roster reshuffling at the trade deadline.

Like Vogel with the Lakers, Williams’ time with the Suns was incredibly successful but also tells the tale of how fragile a head-coaching position can be in the NBA if there is a level of underachieving in the postseason.

The Suns were in a sad state of affairs prior to his arrival, with an 87-241 record across a four-year span. Williams joined Phoenix in 2019 and along with general manager James Jones prioritized building a culture for an organization that didn’t have one and targeted specific types of players to make that happen.

They did a good job right away, turning Phoenix into a competitive group that won 33 games and nearly snuck into the play-in at the bubble. After the acquisitions of Jae Crowder and Chris Paul, a Suns group that was expected to make the playoffs exceeded that by making a run to the NBA Finals, where Phoenix lost in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Championship expectations were set, and even though the Suns won a franchise record 64 games in the 2021-22 season with an NBA Coach of the Year award for Williams, it didn’t mean much at all when Phoenix was upset in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks.

Last season began with a plethora of injuries and absences. Still, the Suns didn’t look like themselves. But they quickly reset the title bar by acquiring Durant in February, with the sportsbooks once again putting down the Suns as the team to beat in the West.

Durant, however, failed to change much. Through two different injuries, he had only eight regular-season games to assimilate. That and being matched up with a top-seeded Denver Nuggets team in the second round doomed the Suns to the same fate for the second straight year.

Despite Williams’ 194-115 record, that was enough for him to be dismissed. The head coach was heavily criticized by the fanbase for his rotation choices and lack of mid-series adjustments in the playoffs, an area his replacement will surely have an extra bit of attention paid toward from the onlookers.

With what Williams got done in Phoenix, he was heavily pursued by other teams.

The Milwaukee Bucks were reportedly among the teams to inquire about Williams. The coach, though, was heavily considering a year off.

That’s what the Detroit Pistons also heard back, but two weeks into their search, they reached back out to Williams with some of what his contract could look like and their plan for the roster. Williams would later agree to a six-year deal with two more option years and incentives that could make it worth over $100 million. It is the largest deal for a head coach in NBA history.

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