Why Lakers must not rehire Frank Vogel after Suns firing

Tony Nguyen | Los Angeles Lakers
May 11, 2024

The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers might be two of the most similar, yet different teams across the NBA, and right now, they are both looking for a new head coach after the Suns fired Frank Vogel and the Lakers parted ways with Darvin Ham. Now, the question becomes, should the Lakers bring Vogel back?

On one side of the equation, you have an aged roster led by Kevin Durant, who just recently transferred to the Arizona franchise looking to take it over the top in a way that Chris Paul wasn’t able to do. Behind him, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal were supposed to provide an offensive boost like no other — so much so that the rest of the league wouldn’t even know where to start on defense.

For the Lakers, LeBron James is still kicking and screaming doing everything he can to avoid retiring without one more big push. He’s been paired with another All-Star in Anthony Davis and surrounded — for once — with a strong group of role players that add to chemistry instead of demanding attention. They made the Western Conference Finals just one year ago and James hasn’t depreciated that much.

Yet, on the day of May 10th, both franchises are done. Finished. Eliminated. Why is that?

Well, one could argue that a top-heavy franchise just isn’t fit to contend with the up-and-coming stars that make up teams more so than boast individual talent. Three proficient scorers seem like a good idea on paper, but where is the defense? LeBron James and anyone also seems like a strong fit, but just how much can a team truly lean on him in his 21st NBA season?

All valid questions. Both franchises are now searching for answers to their queries, and that starts with their respective coaches.

Oh, wait. Neither has one. Both Ham and Vogel, each after no more than two seasons, have been ousted and blamed for the woes of their team. Ham seems to be moved on from the NBA, at least for the time being, while Vogel remains in contention for a few positions — namely the Lakers’ vacancy.

Bringing back Vogel would be a reunion, but is it a good idea?

No, it’s not. Here’s why.

Frank Vogel should stay away from the Lakers

Suns head coach Frank Vogel calls a timeout against the Hawks during a game at Footprint Center in Phoenix on March 21, 2024.
Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

I’d be remiss to glance over the fact that Frank Vogel won a championship with the Lakers in his first season there.

Bubble and all, James and the Lakers played the hardest basketball they’d had to play. (At this point, calling the season a “fluke” only exposes fans as being narrative bandwagons with no goal but to discredit LeBron). And they came out victorious. Sure, Vogel could argue that he played a role in the title, and he did, but it’s important to note that it wasn’t just him that was different that season.

It was Anthony Davis’ first year as well.

Bringing in the then-disgruntled New Orleans superstar was a big move for Rob Pelinka and company, and it worked perfectly. Davis added a level to both the Lakers’ offense and defense that they just couldn’t have reached without him. He allowed James to make plays the way he’d always loved to do and helped elevate role players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma.

Vogel was the face of a championship-winning team, and it appeared as if the Lakers had found not only their coach of the future but also their superstar pairing that would deliver multiple titles before James retired. But that didn’t end up being the case.

The next two seasons were riddled with roster changes, injuries, and disappointment. The Lakers were kicked from the postseason in the first round by the Phoenix Suns and then missed the playoffs the following season. Players like Dennis Schroeder, Montrezl Harrell, and even Wesley Matthews went in and out of Vogel’s rotation when James and Davis went down with injuries, and the Lakers couldn’t quite find their groove.

In those moments, Vogel proved that he wasn’t a franchise coach. Instead of elevating the Lakers to continued success when one of their two stars was out, the Lakers looked lost and helpless without Davis. Even in last year’s playoffs — when Vogel wasn’t the coach — that seemed to be the case. No Davis meant no win. Vogel isn’t going to fix that issue.

If injuries are taken out of the equation, and both Los Angeles stars have seasons like they did this year, Vogel might fare better, but if that’s the case, it says more about James’ leadership than it does his.

Ham was widely accused of not doing much. Keeping his hands in his pockets, refusing to call timeouts and even relinquishing control of the huddle to James. Vogel might not have been to that extent, but he lost the locker room of the Suns, which — as mentioned above — is similar to the Lakers as far as star power goes.

If the Lakers want to be competitive, they need to find a way to beat the Denver Nuggets. They need a coach who can elevate the players around James and allow them to fit even better than they already do. The name of that coach might have already been considered or might be yet to emerge, but if one thing is for certain, their name is not Frank Vogel.

He just isn’t the right fit, and that’s why the Lakers must not hire him.