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The Indiana Pacers managed to tie their series with the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday by blowing out the eighth seed in the second half. That’s a good thing for coach Frank Vogel, too, since ESPN reports Wednesday that Vogel is effectively “coaching for his job” after the Pacers’ two-month slide.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Vogel, despite a 56-win season that secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, is “coaching for his job” in the wake of a prolonged slide that has stretched into its third month.
Following Indiana’s 101-85 triumph over Atlanta in Game 2 of the teams’ first-round playoff series, sources told ESPN.com that coming back to win the series against the Hawks would not automatically ensure Vogel’s safety. After a 40-11 start, the Pacers went just 16-15 the rest of the way before a humbling loss in the series opener against the eighth-seeded Hawks.
The decision on whether to retain Vogel at season’s end ultimately rests with Pacers president Larry Bird, sources said, but frustration throughout the organization has been mounting thanks to a nosedive that began in February with a loss in Orlando just before the All-Star break and has shown few signs of abating.
The report comes nine days after Bird told local radio that he backs Vogel ’100 percent.’
Meanwhile, the Pacers try and figure out if they can sustainably beat the eighth-seeded Hawks due to Atlanta’s ability to spread the floor with their “five-out” approach, using center Pero Antic and volume three-point shooting to get the Pacers out of their comfort zone.
But making it out of the first round likely won’t save Vogel’s job. The bar was set with the Finals, with losing to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals likely a “passing” grade. The Pacers, should they manage to beat Atlanta, will face either a tough, tough Chicago Bulls team or (more likely, given how the first two games have gone) the red-hot Washington Wizards in the second round.
Sources said that Stephenson and guard George Hill had to be separated on the bench during a 26-point home loss to San Antonio on March 31. And when Roy Hibbert made his well-chronicled complaints to NBA.com in late March about “some selfish dudes in here,” sources say he was essentially referring to Stephenson, who ranks as one of the league’s most improved players this season as he approaches free agency in July and is well-known to be a Bird favorite.
Pressure to win or be fired, a fracturing locker room, a daunting postseason schedule ahead … but hey, at least Vogel got the win in Game 2. Little victories, right?
Well, that didn’t take long.
The New York Daily News reports that Phil Jackson, hired one month ago as president of basketball operations, is already clashing with owner James Dolan, as Dolan doesn’t want Jackson to fire certain personnel.
Just one month into his role as Knicks president, Jackson has already clashed with Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, over personnel decisions, the Daily News has learned. According to a team source, Jackson is looking to remove several staff members, which is commonplace when a new administration takes over, but Dolan opposes removing certain employees.
According to the source, Dolan’s reaction to Jackson’s request was to tell the 11-time NBA championship coach to simply focus his attention on building a winning team. To say that “minor friction,” as one Garden source called it, can be classified as Jackson’s honeymoon with Dolan being over may be stretching it a bit.
But at the very least it proves that Dolan — surprise, surprise — wasn’t being entirely truthful last month when he claimed he was “willingly and gratefully” giving up control of the basketball decisions to Jackson, the Hall of Fame coach.
That was apparently “willingly and gratefully as long as you only do things I’m OK with.”
There’s nothing uncommon about the new guy cleaning house. It’s pretty standard for the new person in charge to want to install his people and remove people who may not be loyal or don’t share the same vision. Hiring Jackson meant understanding that the organization was going to change, not that Jackson was going to wave his magic wand and make the Knicks into a contender.
Wait, no, that sounds exactly like something James Dolan would think.
Jackson arrived to a lot of fanfare and promises, but now has to set about righting the very wronged ship. We’ll see if Dolan truly lets him steer.
Phil Jackson met with the media Wednesday, two days after firing coach Mike Woodson as Jackson begins taking control of basketball operations for the New York Knicks. After Woodson’s firing, there has been widespread speculation and media desire for the near-70-year-old to return to the sideline. Jackson squashed that on Wednesday:
Phil said he “made up his mind” and he will not coach. Also cited physical reasons.
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) April 23, 2014
Jackson also said the search for a replacement could take a while:
Jackson says there’s no timetable on the coaching decision other than fact that he’d like to have someone coaching the summer-league team
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 23, 2014
Jackson denied a recent report that James Dolan has clashed with him by blocking Jackson’s desire to remove some staff members.
Phil says Dolan “has been very true to his word” in terms of leaving bball decisions up to him.
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 23, 2014
Jackson did tell reporters he met with Steve Kerr in January, but wouldn’t comment on Kerr’s, or any other coach’s candidacy. Kerr is widely considered the favorite, listed at a 2-1 favorite by Bovada.lv on Tuesday.
It make sense that Jackson wouldn’t coach. He’s past that point in his life and hasn’t been all that interested in it since retiring in 2011. He almost took the Lakers job, but always expressed an interest in taking on more of a role like he has with New York. Factor in his health condition (bad hip, back, knees) and the travel involved with coaching on top of the stress, and it’s not worth it.
Plus, right now he gets paid $15 million per year to make general decisions and wax poetic, so that’s a pretty great gig.