Wed. Sep 27th, 2023

The Phoenix Suns will hire Frank Vogel as their next head coach, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and confirmed by CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter. Vogel will receive a five-year deal that will pay him $31 million over the course of the contract, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Phoenix assistant coach Kevin Young and former Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers were also finalists for the position, and the team was in talks with Nick Nurse this week before he accepted the Sixers job, per ESPN.

Vogel presided over the Los Angeles Lakers team that won the NBA championship in 2019-20, but was fired two years later after the team traded for Russell Westbrook and parted ways with all of the two-way role players that were part of the title run. He is known as a defense-first coach, largely due to his 2011-2016 run with the Indiana Pacers — in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, they finished the regular season with the league’s top defense and advanced to the conference finals. Vogel also coached the Orlando Magic from 2016 to 2018. 

Vogel will replace Monty Williams, who led the Suns to the NBA Finals in 2021 and was fired in May after a second-round loss against the Denver Nuggets. Williams was recently hired by the Detroit Pistons on a contract that could reportedly pay him up to $100 million over eight years.

The team hopes that Young will remain on the coaching staff, but he has other options, according to ESPN.

Phoenix had higher aspirations than a second-round exit, especially after its blockbuster trade for Kevin Durant in February. Its opponent was formidable, however, and its roster was extremely top-heavy. Chris Paul hurt his groin in the third quarter of Game 2 and missed the rest of the series, and Deandre Ayton missed Game 6 because of a rib contusion, putting even more on the shoulders of Devin Booker and Durant. As a result of the timing of the trade and injuries, the foursome of Booker, Durant, Paul and Ayton only played eight regular-season games together, logging 159 minutes and outscoring opponents by 17.4 points per 100 possessions.

That group was elite on both ends in that tiny sample size, but might never play together again. There have been reports that the Suns could move both the 38-year-old Paul and the almost-25-year-old Ayton since the moment that they were eliminated from the playoffs. The team that Vogel coaches, then, could be drastically different than the one that was blown out in Game 6 in Denver, and that team was already drastically different from the one that was blown out in Game 7 against the Dallas Mavericks last season. 

All of this is to say that this hire is a continuation of a franchise reset that began as soon as Mat Ishbia officially bought the team. On his first day as owner, after an all-hands meeting, an introductory press conference and a celebratory dinner, he and the front office executed the Durant deal. Two days after the season ended, the Suns fired Williams. Vogel is not there to nudge their defensive efficiency upward — they finished No. 7 on that end last season despite almost never being whole, and were Nos. 3 and 6 the two years prior — but to build something new around Booker and Durant and who knows who else.

Vogel has proven he can win at the highest level when given the talent to do so. Now it’s on management to make sure he has the talent. That doesn’t just mean superstars; it means surrounding the superstars with enough high-level role players that Phoenix can survive regular-season injuries and the playoff crucible. 

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