Frank Vogel’s goal to build “organizational togetherness” within the Los Angeles Lakers met the reality of the team’s current dysfunction Monday.
Vogel’s introduction as the Lakers’ latest coach was almost overshadowed by comments made earlier by Magic Johnson. The former Lakers great appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” and said general manager Rob Pelinka was largely responsible for his resignation as president of basketball operations and that Pelinka was talking behind his back, putting the GM in the position of using the Vogel news conference to respond.
Pelinka said he has talked to Johnson several times since his resignation on April 9 and said Johnson’s comments surprised him. Pelinka said the last time the two had talked was over the weekend.
“It’s saddening and disheartening to think he believes things are a misperception,” Pelinka said. “I think all of us in life probably have been through things where maybe there’s third party whispers or ‘he said, she said’ things that aren’t true.”
Vogel, who replaced Luke Walton, said the news conference took on a different tone than he imagined at the start of the day.
“It was definitely different than I expected and different than I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “But I understand the line of questioning in light of the events of this morning. So you just roll with the punches.”
LeBron James watched the news conference from the back of the gym at the team’s facility, but did not shake hands with Vogel and declined interview requests. He shot baskets on another court while Vogel did one-on-one interviews with television reporters.
Vogel takes over a team that has been in turmoil on and off the court. The Lakers have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons, a drought that was expected to end in James’ first season. But injuries to James, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, as well as the internal discord, resulted in a 37-45 record. Vogel will be the Lakers’ sixth coach since Phil Jackson stepped down after the 2010-11 season.
The 45-year old Vogel worked for the organization before as an advance scout during the 2005-06 season. He did not coach last season following two years with the Orlando Magic. Vogel went to Orlando following five-plus seasons leading the Indiana Pacers, including trips to the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and ’14. He has a career record of 304-291.
Vogel confirmed Jason Kidd will join his staff as an assistant and said it was something Pelinka brought up during the job interview.