Lakers fire coach Frank Vogel to cap off a car crash of a season
Los Angeles, California - The Lakers fired coach Frank Vogel on Monday, just two years after he led the team to its 17th NBA championship and first since 2010.
In the seasons since, Vogel's teams have been decimated by injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers losing in the first round of the 2021 playoffs before missing the postseason in 2022. It culminated with a 49-loss season during which the Lakers were never more than three games over .500 and in which Vogel used 40 starting lineups.
In three seasons with the team, Vogel went 127-98. In 11 seasons of professional coaching, he's 431-289.
The Lakers hired Vogel in 2019 after a wild coaching search that linked the team to Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams, who took jobs with the Clippers and Phoenix Suns, respectively, and then met in last season's Western Conference finals. Vogel ended up taking the job, agreeing to work with Jason Kidd as his top assistant.
On Sunday night, after a season-ending win in Denver, guard Malik Monk praised Vogel for his coaching and demeanor this season.
"He kept his cool the whole time. Didn't talk about no problems like that. Didn't talk about anything like that, man. He came in and worked and always gave us a great game plan," Monk said.
"He was always about us. It was never really about him. And I praise him for that, man. I know that was pretty hard on him, but he never talked about it. He never changed his demeanor. He stayed cool, and yeah man, kudos to Frank."
An emotional title win
The Lakers developed one of the NBA's top defenses while undergoing one of the most traumatic seasons in league history.
In Vogel's first month with the team, the Lakers were caught in an international controversy, scheduled to play games in China right as then-Houston Rockets general manager Darryl Morey voiced support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators in a tweet.
Then on January 26, one day after James passed Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash.
That March, with the Lakers among the best teams in the NBA, the league shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The team would later to travel to Orlando, Florida, where it spent more than 100 days inside a bubble, to finish the NBA season and defeat Miami for the championship, the Lakers' record-tying 17th title.
"I'm so proud of that," Vogel said that night about the Lakers' defensive dominance.
"Our guys, look, you can have a defensive – you can have a talented team, even a defensive-talented team, but if everybody is not working together and everybody is not bought in and seeing the value of being able to suffocate an opponent and take away their strength, you're not going to reach that level."
Preseason was a sign of things to come
Despite the shortest offseason in NBA history – 71 days between the Finals and the start of training – the Lakers were the favorites to win another title. The team was 21-6 when Davis suffered an Achilles injury that cost him 30 games. Next, James would miss 26 of 28 games following a severe ankle sprain.
Both players would return late in the season, the Lakers earning a spot in the playoffs by beating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA's postseason play-in tournament. They would go on to lead the eventual conference champion Suns 2-1 before groin and knee injuries knocked Davis out of the series.
After trading for Russell Westbrook and signing a cast of former stars such as Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers were again the favorites in the Western Conference.
The team went winless in the preseason and struggled to find continuity after early-season injuries to Trevor Ariza, Kendrick Nunn, and Talen Horton-Tucker. James would miss 10 of the Lakers' first 19 games because of ankle and abdominal injuries, while Davis suffered a serious knee sprain in mid-December as the Lakers were dealing with a significant Covid-19 outbreak.
Davis would return and get injured again right before the All-Star break, suffering a mid-foot sprain when he landed on Rudy Gobert's heel. Davis missed another 18 games, the Lakers left to fight for the final spot in the play-in tournament.
Those hopes effectively ended March 27 when the Lakers, who led by more than 20 in the first half, lost in New Orleans when James, who missed games late in the season because of a sore left knee, sprained his ankle.
The Lakers were officially eliminated from postseason contention Tuesday, when they lost in Phoenix and the San Antonio Spurs won in Denver.
The Lakers would lose eight games in a row before winning against Oklahoma City in the home finale at Crypto.com Arena.
Cover photo: USA TODAY Sports