EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Frank Vogel brings similarities, differences to elevate Suns further

Jun 6, 2023, 3:31 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2023, 8:12 am

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns held a successful press conference on Tuesday, in that what president basketball operations and general manager James Jones said about new head coach Frank Vogel and what Vogel said himself filled in gaps on the painting to show a clearer picture of the Suns’ change.

Vogel replaces Monty Williams, who did a lot right and enough wrong to be fired.

Jones spoke for the first time on why that choice was made.

“A hard decision had to be made about where do we go next,” he said. “And moving forward, I just felt we needed an injection of a different voice, a different energy. It’s really just that simple. As we evaluated where we were and where we wanted to go, we just saw a gap, and we needed to fill it.”

Jones referenced what he and Williams started in Phoenix, constructing a culture out of nothing to make the Suns what they are, while also noting what had to change.

“We set out a few years ago to build a foundation of excellence,” Jones said. “We set out a few years ago to become a franchise that many would call elite and we’ve taken some steps towards our goal of winning a championship. But as we look forward, we needed another leader, someone that could elevate us to the next level.”

Vogel comes in and critically has some similarities to Williams. The thought process behind replacing a head coach is often flawed, based on the notion of prioritizing the weaknesses of the previous regime over what positives came from the coach as well.

The Suns did both.

Jones was a part of Miami Heat teams that battled with Vogel’s Indiana Pacers group in back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals. Vogel’s defensive-minded squads didn’t come out on top, but as he joked to Jones, “you beat us, but we beat you up.”

With Jones getting to know the coach more during the interview process, he pointed out how Vogel’s personality is not a direct match with his style of play.

“Well, you make a bunch of assumptions when you see a team play so tough and physical and beat you up, so I was expecting Frank to be like that,” Jones said. “I was expecting him to be rough and tough, but you find is he’s extremely well-balanced. An underrated trait is he’s a guy that knows how to bring the toughness out of you without barking, without screaming (and) without pushing. He gets you to believe you’re tough, even if you aren’t until you actually start doing it.”

Williams’ connection with his players were vital and Vogel stressed the importance of communication as well, calling it a genuine desire to develop relationships.

There was never a doubt if Williams could handle the big personalities of star players and Vogel’s got that handled from his previous tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I think there were lessons learned,” Vogel said. “But I think the experience of dealing with those guys in L.A. really gave me a Ph. D. in the head-coach, star-player partnership.”

Vogel’s work with LeBron James (who has lots of say in the goings-on with his franchise) and Anthony Davis (who isn’t the most willing to play his best position at the 5) speaks for itself with the championship in Year 1. And while not insinuating that James and Davis were a pain to deal with, we all know that Devin Booker and Kevin Durant are going to be hardly as difficult to coach.

Vogel wants to allow Booker and Durant a chance to provide feedback.

This star duo knows what comes with Vogel as their coach and Vogel has the reputation to possess the necessary respect already.

“I think the first thing I can apply is direct belief. Because I’ve done it, I’ve been a part of it,” Vogel said of winning a title.

As Vogel put it, beliefs and expectations are aligned, and Durant already told Vogel how excited he is to defend in Vogel’s system.

When it comes to how his approach differentiates from Williams, Vogel spotlighting the stylistic changes in the league was notable. He’s known for his schematic versatility with a defense and applying changes in the postseason that influence the outcome of a series. Vogel’s had a whole lot of work in that regard and him getting comfortable with that would be understandable.

But he recognizes how the NBA works and the consistent change that has to come.

“The game has changed and continues to change so much over the last 5-10 years,” Vogel said, acknowledging how much his system that has worked in the past keeps changing.

What he added on that front embodies the Suns’ decisions at head coach as a whole.

“The evolution has been necessary.”

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