The Indiana Pacers have made significant progress toward deciding to make interim Frank Vogel the permanent head coach while working to strengthen his grip on the locker room, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
No final decision has been reached, but sources said most of the hurdles have been cleared for Vogel to be offered a multi-year contract in the near future.
Bird and Vogel have met several times in recent weeks, and have targeted several assistant coaches – including Terry Porter and J.B. Bickerstaff – that the Pacers would like to surround Vogel.
Indiana hasn’t completely ruled out waiting longer and meeting with outside candidates, but management and Vogel have been increasingly in agreement on how to proceed forward together. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has urged Bird – a close friend of his – to consider assistant coach Dwane Casey, but that appears a more unlikely route.
The biggest issue had been the organization’s concern over Vogel’s ability to police the locker room and command the respect of players. Vogel was promoted to interim coach after the firing of head coach Jim O’Brien in February.
Despite a 20-18 finish to the regular season and a competitive first-round playoff loss to the top-seeded Chicago Bulls, there was slippage on issues like punctuality and discipline, league sources said.
To remedy that, Vogel has worked with management to target several strong assistant coaches, including Porter and Bickerstaff. Vogel is the league’s youngest coach at 37, and doesn’t have the stature that might otherwise command easier respect.
The Pacers want vocal, hands-on assistants to work with Vogel, sources said. Longtime assistant Dan Burke is expected to be a holdover to the next coaching staff.
The organization was sympathetic to Vogel’s plight once he took over the team, because he had worked quickly to make substantial X’s and O’s changes on offense and defense. He had inherited O’Brien’s relatively unimposing staff as his own, and it was natural that a byproduct might be some setbacks in the locker room.