Larry Bird’s May 5 press conference, in which he announced that the Indiana Pacers were not bringing back head coach Frank Vogel, was memorable for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was Bird’s insinuation that Vogel begged him for his job back when he called to deliver the news. It was a bizarre comment to make publicly, even at the time. Not surprisingly, Vogel (now the coach of the Orlando Magic) is pushing back.
Vogel gave a radio interview this week (transcription via the Indianapolis Star) where he disputed Bird’s characterization of their talk:
“I was OK with that. Larry’s going to speak his mind. A lot of people talked to me about it who didn’t like that and it’s probably an inaccurate perception that I was begging him to stay. … I fully respect Larry and the process. He knew it was going to be an unpopular move but he did what he had to do.
“I felt like we were on the verge of some big things. We stood toe-to-toe with a 56-win team. I told my team after the series that were poised … I felt like I was going to be able to do that with this group. That was my only mention to Larry.”
Vogel took the high road here — not denying that he asked Bird to reconsider, but taking slight exception to the cavalier way in which Bird said it, which made Vogel come off as desperate at the time. And in Vogel’s defense, it was more than a little tactless of Bird to frame their talk like that, especially when he called a press conference specifically to announce Vogel’s dismissal. But it’s understandable that Vogel isn’t still mad, since he landed in arguably a better situation in Orlando, with more young talent, a nice pay raise and lower expectations.