Frank Vogel’s everyman appeal matters to Suns’ championship run

Jun 6, 2023, 8:19 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2023, 8:36 am

Frank Vogel, Phoenix Suns head coach 2...

Frank Vogel during his introductory press conference as Phoenix Suns head coach. (Screenshot)


There is an everyman appeal to new Phoenix Suns head coach Frank Vogel. Like the manager in an Applebee’s commercial. Or the neighbor who asks to borrow a bicycle pump.

His smile is warm, his tone is friendly and there is no sign of ego. Yet there is no shortage of confidence.

In Tuesday’s introductory press conference, Vogel said all the right things. He paid tribute to Charles Barkley and the 1992-93 Suns and said his teams will be “scrappy as hell.”

Vogel is a professional hire who seems very comfortable in this champion-or-bust arena. He looked rested. He sounded well prepared, responding to every questioner by name. Best of all, he seemed genuinely excited about recent conversations with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, and said he has a Ph.D. in coach-star player relationships.

That matters.

Bottom line: Vogel knows he’s a good coach and has the championship ring to prove it. He is comfortable in his skin and aware the best NBA coaches don’t make it about coaching, they lend a hand and fade into the background.

And yet, while the beginning of another new era was unfolding before our eyes, as the city of Phoenix officially welcomed the 21st head coach in the history of our beloved NBA franchise, I couldn’t stop focusing on James Jones.

The Suns general manager looked like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He was dressed for an episode of “Succession,” crisply attired in a blue suit and tie. It’s hard not to admire how Jones keeps impressing all the right people, despite a few blind spots.

Jones sounds and acts like no other GM in the business. He has a powerful blend of swagger and conviction. Robert Sarver couldn’t wait to promote Jones, creating a terrible work environment for then-general manager Ryan McDonough, thereby setting the stage for the Deandre Ayton-Luka Doncic fiasco.

Once again, it seems that Jones has impressed a wealthy owner in Phoenix. The incumbent will get a chance to spin the current roster into an NBA championship. While Vogel sounded eager to coach Ayton, he is the only card Jones has to play if he wants to goose and juice the roster.

Either way, any concerns that Jones’ authority has been completely undercut by a hyper-aggressive owner were countered by the GM’s tone on Tuesday, when Jones spoke like a true boss, without a trace of softness or empathy.

He said the Suns needed a new leader, a new voice and a new energy at the top, someone to make the journey fun all over again. The latter tells you how much Monty Williams might’ve changed since the Orlando bubble.

Jones has a new partner now. Vogel is the guy to finish the job, trying to pull off what the general manager calls, “the hardest thing we’ll ever do.”

We know the feeling.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7.

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