Frank Vogel wants the interim tag removed from his head coaching title, and while he does have a case that he earned a chance to be the Indiana Pacers' head coach, it is by no means an airtight one. The Pacers improved under Vogel, but the improvement was more slight than the increase in winning percentage might lead one to believe.
Before Vogel replaced former Indiana Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien, the Pacers had limped to a 17-27 record, giving the team a .386 winning percentage after the first 44 games. After Vogel assumed the reins, the Pacers went on to win 20 of the 38 regular season contests remaining for a .526 winning percentage.
However, sometimes win-loss records do not tell the whole story, and what those win-loss records do not reveal is by what a small amount the Pacers really did improve.
With O'Brien as their head coach, the Pacers were outscored by their opponents by 1.6 points per 100 possessions, scoring 104.1 points per 100 possessions on offense and allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions on defense.
Under Vogel, the Pacers increased overall by one point per 100 possessions and were outscored by their opponents by 0.6 points per 100 possessions, scoring 107.1 points per 100 possessions on offense and allowing 107.7 points per 100 possessions.
The Pacers' inferiority to their opponents increased to being outscored by 1.4 points per 100 possessions when the playoff series against the Chicago Bulls is included, but if Vogel is hired, it will probably be because of how the Pacers finished the regular season.
Of course, improving by one point per 100 possessions does not suddenly thrust the Pacers into the conversation of elite NBA teams, so if Vogel does have the interim tag removed, do not look for the Pacers to compete for a title next season.
Vogel has already made it very clear that he thinks he deserves a chance to be the team's head coach. His campaign should also be supported by Tyler Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones, Roy Hibbert, A.J. Price and Paul George.
It is Hansbrough who received the most benefit from Vogel taking over head coaching duties. Hansbrough went from playing 32.4 percent of the Pacers' minutes for O'Brien to 54.7 percent of the Pacers' minutes for Vogel. His role in the offense also increased as his usage percentage went from 21.3 percent to 23.9 percent and the percentage of shots he took for the Pacers while on the floor went from 21.2 percent to 25.0 percent.
Hansbrough rewarded Vogel's confidence by largely maintaining the 53.4 true shooting percentage he had for O'Brien; he posted a 52.7 true shooting percentage over the rest of the regular season under Vogel.
Jones would also have a lot to look forward to from Vogel being retained as head coach. His percentage of team minutes played also increased dramatically from 13.4 percent to 29.2 percent. Additionally, his scoring average improved from 2.7 points per game to 7.2 points per game while his true shooting percentage went from 48.9 percent to 56.6 percent.
Hibbert will also remember his time under Vogel as a time when he played his best basketball, even though it took him accepting a different role to do so. After a hot start to the season, Hibbert started playing tremendously poor basketball, and at the end of O'Brien's tenure, he had just a 47.5 true shooting percentage.
For the rest of the regular season, Hibbert posted a 54.5 true shooting percentage helped in part by the fact he was asked to do less on offense. Vogel no doubt realized Hibbert is not a player who is able to carry a high percentage of the offense and so decreased his usage percentage from 24.9 percent to 22.4 percent and the percentage of shots he took from 25.1 percent to 21.8 percent.
Since Hibbert did play so much better, it was a necessary trade-off.
Price and George are in the same boat as they would look forward to a return from Vogel because it would allow them more time on the court. Price's minute percentage increased from 26.3 percent for O'Brien to 33.9 percent for Vogel and George's minute percentage jumped from 33.4 percent under O'Brien to 47.2 percent for Vogel.
With the Pacers' modest mid-season improvement and the support of the five players who all benefited from having him as their coach, Vogel should have a decent chance of getting the Pacers' head coaching position; the Pacers could do a lot worse than Vogel.