The Indiana Pacers stormed out of the gate in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and claimed a 9-2 lead after four minutes of play. They would like to forget the ensuing 44 minutes, which saw their season come crashing down in an epic 117-92 throttling at the hands of the Miami Heat. Now, the finger-pointing can begin.
However, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra insists that firing Pacers skipper Frank Vogel would be "ridiculous," according to Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick.
Vogel now has four seasons as the Pacers' head coach to his credit, and he increased the team's win total in each season. While their win percentage was actually higher in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, they lost in the second round that year.
Since then, two consecutive trips to the conference finals have ended in losses against the defending champions, who boast the best player on the planet. Nevertheless, Vogel could find himself out of a job if Pacers president Larry Bird and the rest of the front office deem a change necessary.
The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz noted that the Pacers have clearly failed to live up to expectations following another season-ending loss to Miami: "Bird didn't put this team together to watch it go into the tank. From the moment the season began, he said, 'We're all in' while saying anything short of the NBA Finals would be a disappointment."
Indy displayed little consistency when it mattered most, and talented teams that yield irregular results sometimes put the head coach on a butcher's block.
After the Pacers went to bed on March 17 with a 49-17 record, they finished the season 6-9. Then they needed a full seven games to clip the Atlanta Hawks, the only playoff team with a losing record.
In 2013, playoff coaches George Karl, Lionel Hollins and Vinny Del Negro all got the ax after winning over 50 games during the regular season. This season, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson met the same fate after 51 wins. Firing Vogel would hardly be unprecedented.
However, Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard took to Twitter after the Pacers lost Game 1 to Atlanta, and he seemed to foreshadow Spoelstra by joshing that neither he nor Bird had any interest in terminating Vogel.
While the team could still decide to go in a different direction, a new coach would hardly act as a panacea since the roster clearly needs tweaking.
The bench needs bolstering, and mercurial shooting guard Lance Stephenson will hit free agency. The team should focus on filling that impending void instead of creating a new one.
Also, recently hired New York Knicks president Phil Jackson already knows how difficult it can be to search for a new head coach. Vogel's job should remain safe, but in today's NBA, nothing is certain.