On Saturday, stuck in the middle of the NBA’s slow season, Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George was clearly yearning:
Looking to fill that void, George opened up to his nearly 700,000 followers on Twitter, mentioning that he’d take ten questions from random fans. The list of Qs and eventual As were the typical fare, citing George’s favorite movie (‘Saving Private Ryan’), NBA heroes from his youth (Kobe, Tracy McGrady, Anfernee Hardaway), his favorite non-Indianapolis arenas to play in (Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center), while doing sound work in mentioning “Sofia Vergara and Alex Morgan” as his favorite celebrity crushes.
Then he reeled in this big’un:
“Obrien,” in this instance, refers to former Indiana coach Jim O’Brien, who was let go partway through the 2010-11 season. Assistant coach Frank Vogel took over after Obie’s 17-27 start, and helped lead the young Pacers to the playoffs with a 20-18 turn. The team would eventually fall to the top ranked Chicago Bulls in the first round, but not before putting the Bulls through their, pardon the phrase, paces, establishing a defensive identity that has led to Indiana’s current ranking amongst the championship contenders.
George would start for the second half of Vogel’s 38-game run, and Indiana went 10-9 with the rookie in the lineup alongside All-Star swingman Danny Granger. The move to send veteran Mike Dunleavy Jr. to the bench cost the Pacers in terms of spacing, but it also helped spring out a devastating defensive perimeter rotation, and accelerate George’s growth as a player. When Granger went down for the bulk of the 2012-13 with a knee injury, the young triptych of George, Roy Hibbert, and Vogel helped take the Pacers all the way to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals.
Indiana would not make it as far in 2014, falling to the Heat in six games, and Vogel’s job security has been called into question after the Pacers collapsed mentally, offensively, and even defensively down the stretch of the 2013-14 season. George admitted that his team “peaked too early,” and many observers wondered why Vogel couldn’t find a solution to the team’s rotation-wide woes.
O’Brien did resurface as a Dallas Mavericks assistant in 2012-13, but he retired after that lone season back on the sidelines. The former Pacers and Celtics head coach has not been mentioned as a candidate to fill any of the myriad head coaching openings that have sprung up around the NBA in the years since his 2011 dismissal, and he likely doesn’t enjoy seeing his name back in the news under these circumstances.
Worse, he probably doesn’t enjoy the fact that his firing ranks as one of the NBA’s premier’s players best memories “as a rook,” choosing to answer that question amongst dozens of other queries on Twitter. It’s no secret that most NBA players prefer certain coaches over others, and either look forward to or reflect fondly upon an unloved coach’s dismissal, but rare is the player that will speak out about it following the separation. It’s fair to suggest that celebrating such things on the record could be viewed as gauche, rude, or worse.
This is what happens on Twitter, on a Saturday, and in the NBA’s dead season. Sorry about that, Obie.
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