Last Friday night’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers was a big one for the Indiana Pacers. Not only was it a victory over a winning team as they chase a playoff berth, but it also allowed Frank Vogel to make history.
Vogel, who took over when Jim O’Brien was fired during the 2010-11 season, now has more NBA victories than any coach in franchise history. Vogel passed Larry Brown, who went 190-138 as Indiana’s coach, in three fewer games. He has already led the club to more postseasons (four) than any of his predecessors. Only Vogel’s boss, Larry Bird, had a better winning percentage while leading the Pacers.
A native of New Jersey, Vogel comes from a state rich with musical history. He seems like he might be a Bon Jovi guy, but maybe I’m miscasting him. The Jonas Brothers (he has daughters), The Fugees (went to college in the 1990s) and Bruce Springsteen (he’s The Boss) might also be into Vogel’s wheelhouse.
Sticking with the Bon Jovi theme, here are Vogel’s 12 most memorable victories in chronological order.
Livin’ on a Prayer
Jan. 31, 2011 vs. Toronto
The Pacers named Vogel their interim head coach on Jan. 30, 2011, the day O’Brien was mercifully fired. He was victorious in his first game as a head coach at any level, beating the Raptors 104-93 thanks to Roy Hibbert’s 24 points and 11 rebounds. The game spurred a four-game winning streak and launched the Pacers into playoff contention. The players responded well to Vogel, going 20-18 after struggling through a 17-27 mark under O’Brien.
Blaze of Glory
April 23, 2011 vs. Chicago
Vogel’s first playoff win came in Game 4 of the first round against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls. Facing elimination at home, Vogel received a superstar effort from Danny Granger -- 24 points and 10 rebounds -- as the Pacers held off the Bulls in the second half. Chicago sent Indiana packing a few days later, but a win against Derrick Rose during his MVP season is not to be diminished.
March 26, 2012 vs. Miami
Having already lost three times to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the Pacers could have laid down to the eventual champions with the regular season winding down. Instead, they announced they were a legitimate playoff club with a 105-90 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. All five starters scored in double figures and Indy moved to 10 games over .500 for the second time during the lockout-shortened season. Without the ability to properly prepare for his first full season because of the lockout, this win put the Pacers on a track they would remain on for more than two years. Indiana finished the season 13-5 to grab the third seed in the East.
We Weren’t Born To Follow
May 5, 2012 vs. Orlando
The Pacers blew a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter, but held on in overtime to beat the Orlando Magic in Game 4 of their first round series. Burned by perimeter shooting early on, Vogel instructed Hibbert to challenge shooters en route to the victory. Indiana took a 3-1 lead in the series, eventually closing out the Dwight Howard-less Magic in five games.
May 17, 2012 vs. Miami
After earning his first series win against the Magic, the Pacers had the unenviable task of facing the Heat in the semifinals. Indiana took a 2-1 lead over the Heat with a huge 94-75 win in Game 3 before losing the final three games of the series. This game, which saw the Pacers outscore the Heat by 28 points over the final 36 minutes, may have been just as important to Miami as it was to Indiana’s future confidence. The Heat went 11-4 over the remainder of the playoffs after the loss.
Have a Nice Day
March 3, 2013 vs. Chicago
The Bulls were without Rose, but that did little to take the luster off of a 97-92 victory for the Pacers. The win gave Vogel, who signed a contract extension with the franchise a few months earlier, his 100th coaching triumph. Afterward, many players lauded Vogel’s approach, which allowed many (Paul George, Lance Stephenson and Hibbert) to emerge from behind the shadow O’Brien had cast over them.
It’s My Life
May 24, 2013 vs. Miami
Just a few days after the most questioned decision of Vogel’s career -- watching LeBron hit a game-winning layup in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals as Hibbert watched from the bench -- the Pacers edged the Heat 97-93 at American Airlines Arena. The hero for the Pacers? Hibbert, who posted 29 points and 10 rebounds. The loss was just the fourth for Miami in 50 games and afterward Vogel called the contest “one of the best basketball games” he’d ever been involved in. In addition to great play, this game featured George and LeBron shaking hands at halfcourt after the third quarter. This is the game in which George became a superstar.
What Do You Got?
June 1, 2013 vs. Miami
Vogel earned his first June victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, putting the Pacers just one win away from the NBA Finals (spoiler alert: the Heat won Game 7). Indiana fought off elimination with a 91-77 win at home, thanks in large part to 28 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals from George.
(You Want To) Make a Memory
Dec. 7, 2013 vs. San Antonio
The Pacers started the 2013-14 season with nine-straight wins and 18 of their first 20, punctuated with a rare win over the Spurs in San Antonio. This win ended an 11-game losing streak to the Spurs, which included a skid in San Antonio dating back to 2002. For what it’s worth, the Spurs were at full strength for the game.
Keep the Faith
May 7, 2014 vs. Washington
Vogel was Hibbert’s biggest, and sometimes seemingly only, supporter as the big man struggled through the 2014 postseason. After a rough series against the Atlanta Hawks and a Game 1 performance against the Washington Wizards that saw him go without a point or rebound, Hibbert rewarded Vogel for his loyalty with 28 points and nine rebounds in a bounce-back win. Hibbert wasn’t dominant going forward, but his confidence was somewhat restored as Vogel pulled the right strings.
When We Were Beautiful
May 18, 2014 vs. Miami
After a tumultuous second half ruined a historically hot start to the season and before Lance Stephenson left in free agency and Paul George snapped his leg in half, all was briefly right for Vogel and the Pacers. It took the No. 1 seed in the East 13 games to advance past the Hawks and Wizards, but an emphatic 107-96 win over the rival Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals appeared to realign the planets. It felt like maybe all the Pacers needed was to see Miami on the other side to finally draw out their best basketball. We now know that wasn’t the case, but for a few days a championship seemed realistic.
Bed of Roses
Feb. 27, 2015 vs. Cleveland
The 2014-15 season hasn’t been kind to Vogel, who has had to reshuffle his rotation on numerous occasions due to a long list of injuries. In addition to George, who may or may not return this month, the Pacers have seen George Hill, David West, C.J. Miles and C.J. Watson all miss significant time. While Indiana has struggled, Vogel has kept them competitive and last Friday night’s win over the Cavaliers was big for many reasons. It put Vogel atop Indiana’s all-time coaching list and improved the team’s playoff chances as they closed out a tough three-game stretch (Golden State, Oklahoma City and Cleveland) with two wins. Nevermind that both Kyrie Irving and LeBron sat out, Vogel and the Pacers have endured enough this season.
If you want to read an excellent, well-researched biography of Vogel, please check out Mark Montieth’s three-part series for Pacers.com.