Frank Vogel, who led the Lakers to their NBA championship title in his first season as coach, faces a similar task with his new team, the Phoenix Suns. Vogel needs to blend the skills of the team’s stars, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, much like he did with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Vogel expressed confidence at his news conference yesterday, saying “The first thing I can apply is direct belief. Now because I’ve done it, I’ve been a part of it. If the talent is in place, that you can galvanize a group and take the league by storm”.
The Suns are a team on the rise, having improved significantly over the past two seasons under head coach Monty Williams. However, disappointing playoff exits led the team’s owners to terminate Williams’ employment, with owner Mat Ishbia and general manager James Jones citing the need for a change in message. Vogel, who emphasises defensive strategy, will attempt to add grit to the high-scoring glamour of Booker and Durant.
Despite the team being in a state of flux, Vogel will have proven assistants, with David Fizdale as his assistant coach. Fizdale was also an assistant with Vogel at the Lakers, after serving as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks. Kevin Young, one of the NBA’s top assistants, will also join Vogel’s coaching staff.
Vogel faces several challenges, including deciding whether to retain centre Deandre Ayton, who has been inconsistent, and trying to develop his defending skills to an all-star level. The Suns’ successful acquisition of point guard Chris Paul in 2020 contributed significantly to their reaching their first NBA Finals since 1993, but Paul’s groin injury conditions during the playoffs played their part in the Suns failing.
Vogel is optimistic about the Suns’ future, acknowledging the need for the right complementary players to support the team’s stars. Vogel stated that, “…the foundation is in place. We’ve got to just make some moves around the edges,” to allow the Suns to thrive.