LOS ANGELES — Just 15 months away from leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA championship, coach Frank Vogel again answered questions about his job security Wednesday night.
“I don’t feel like I’m being besieged,” Vogel said before the Lakers hosted the Indiana Pacers. “It’s not difficult to do my job; I am very focused on the task at hand. It has always been like this.”
After a 37-point loss to the Denver Nuggets over the weekend — then LA’s third straight loss, with the Lakers’ defense allowing for 125 points or more in all three losses — Vogel’s job was in jeopardy, according to various reports.
Had LA suffered a similar result in Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz, the Lakers’ front office might have felt compelled to remove Vogel from his post, sources told ESPN.
Instead, the Lakers beat the Jazz 101-95 in the team’s most complete performance of the season. The Lakers held the league’s No. 1 offense on just 37.3% shooting and defeated the No. 4 team in the Western Conference despite losing All-Star man tall Anthony Davis (knee) and bench leading scorer Carmelo Anthony (back ) were missing.
Vogel was able to continue but was asked about the tight time Wednesday as he prepared to coach a Pacers team that came into the night after losing 10 of its previous 11 contests.
“It’s really not up to me whether it’s fair or not,” he said. “It comes with the territory, comes with being the Lakers coach. We have high expectations. This fandom really cares. It’s a big market and I wouldn’t want it any other way, to be honest. I want people to care, I want people to want the best and demand excellence from our group. This is what we ask of ourselves; that’s just the way it is.”
It was the second time this season that Vogel had asked questions about his job performance — a question almost invited by the Lakers after they only granted Vogel a one-year contract extension in the offseason. The tepid financial commitment came despite the fact that Vogel’s record playoff coaching win ratio of 18-9 (.667) puts him third in franchise history – behind only Pat Riley (.685) and Paul Westhead (.684) – and ahead of Phil Jackson (.652) who is fourth.
Vogel said Wednesday his interactions with the Lakers’ front office — namely vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis — have been business as usual despite the recent struggles in LA.
“I’m meeting with our front office,” Vogel said. “We’re talking about last night’s game. Every game. All year. It’s been like this for three years. And it’s no different this week or recently.”
Vogel called his relationship with the front office “healthy” and said he didn’t receive specific feedback on his work performance since LA started the season with an overwhelming 22-22 (.500).
“Everyone is working together to leave no stone unturned to move this thing in the right direction,” he said. “And we all have a great working relationship where we try to figure things out together. We won a championship that way and I feel good about our process.”
Vogel said the exam is an essential part of filling the sidelines for a team stocked with future Hall of Famers awaiting another title run.
“In this business and with this team, if you don’t win at a super high level, you’re going to get that kind of noise,” he said. “I’m good at hiding that. I feel good about the work we do.”
Vogel said the Lakers’ defensive execution against the Jazz should teach his team what they can achieve when they bring the required focus to a game. He said he and his coaching staff will continue to tweak schematic concepts and lineups from game to game until Davis returns.
“I believe in what we can achieve this year,” said Vogel, “so we remain steadfastly focused on the task at hand.”