DAN BICKLEY

Frank Vogel more than enough coach to lead Suns over championship hump

Jun 2, 2023, 4:15 PM

Championship rings are never engraved with asterisks. They are always impact statements, even when forged inside a Pandemic bubble.

Bottom line: Frank Vogel is very good hire, more than enough head coach for the Suns to win a championship.

Now comes the heavy lifting.

With the search for a head coach finally completed, the Suns must surround Devin Booker and Kevin Durant with a cohesive roster of experienced teammates, rim protectors, role players, sharpshooters, maybe even a power forward willing to knock you into next week.

They must field a team that can take down the Nuggets after they are empowered by an impending championship. They must field a team that can beat the Clippers when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are fully healthy. They must field a team good enough to seize the small window of opportunity that awaits.

The coming roster additions will be far more important than the hiring of a new head coach, and here’s the cold-hearted truth:

The Suns have three years to win a championship. Judging by their performance against the Nuggets, they are very close to the finish line. But the pressure is building. There is no telling what dysfunction still lingers behind closed doors. And it’s always a long way to the top for a team that has never been there before.

The final steps are always the steepest and can never be assumed.

Vogel should help. He is a defensive-minded tactician content to leave the offense in the hands of others, namely his superstars. He has proven to be skilled at schematics and adjustments, comfortable on one side of a playoff chessboard. He coached LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, which means he knows how to get out of the way and not take himself too seriously.

And a reminder for all the fans quick to discredit Vogel because the Lakers’ bubble championship in Orlando came in a hermetically sealed environment after a lengthy, restorative hiatus: You are also discrediting the achievements of those bubble Suns, and what the galvanizing experience meant for their foundation and collective psyche. It wasn’t easy.

Among the three finalists, Vogel seems like the safest bet. Doc Rivers also has a championship ring but is not a defensive specialist like Vogel. Kevin Young seemed like an intriguing choice, maybe even a frontrunner given Booker’s previous endorsement. But Ishbia rightfully decided this is not the time or place for underdogs, longshots and experiments. It’s not the time to place two superstars and 55 years of heartbreak into unproven, inexperienced hands.

Arizona State football had the runway to hire Kenny Dillingham. The rebuilding Cardinals needn’t fear Jonathan Gannon’s blind spots. The Suns are far too close to the NBA’s Holy Grail for rookie mistakes, and the moment is far too important.

As long as Booker and Durant are onboard, Vogel is a solid choice, more than enough head coach to get where we need to go. He is a B-plus hire based on jewelry alone.

Now comes the hard part.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Dan Bickley

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