Following the official press release from the team and tweet of approval from team governor Mat Ishbia, new Phoenix Suns head coach Frank Vogel was introduced to the media alongside president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones.
The two touched on a myriad of topics, including Vogel’s style and beliefs, Deandre Ayton, the assistant coaches, and more:
Jones opened by calling the multi-week coaching search an “extensive” one and found that the team “needed another leader, someone that can help us get to the next level.” Vogel said he has “direct belief” that he can be that guy, “because I’ve done it and I’ve been a part of it,” referring to the 2020 championship he helped the LA Lakers win.
Vogel believes relationships are key to making that happen, stating “if we’re not building the necessary relationships along the way, then I don’t think we’re gonna be strong enough to get over that hump and win a championship. So it’s a necessary investment and it’s a time investment.”
Jones seems to believe Vogel is capable of building and maintaining those relationships. When asked what he learned about Coach during the hiring process, he said Vogel “knows how to bring the toughness out of you without toughness, without barking, without screaming. He gets you to believe that you’re tough even if you aren’t until you actually start doing it.”
Jones added that Vogel makes it a “joyous activity to do hard things” (which feels to me like a subtle jab at “everything you want is on the other side of hard,” though there’s no shot it was meant that way).
One of those hard things Vogel plans on implementing as an identity of the team is a “scrappy as hell” approach.
"I will be committed to bringing in a championship level culture both on & off the court... When we get out there and play, we're going to be scrappy as hell."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 6, 2023
Frank Vogel in his introductory press conference as the Suns new head coach.
“We have to play harder and tougher and with more hustle than our opponents every night. If you develop that habit over 82 games, come playoff time... it’s already gonna be there for us.”
The two that will help establish that approach are of course Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. Vogel said he loves how those two get after it on the defensive end and believes “a lot of our beliefs are really aligned.” He said he met both at past All-Star games, but isn’t too familiar on a personal level with either coming in.
As for the Deandre Ayton question, Vogel said his defensive scheme — which has been tops in the league numerous times — “starts with the big fella.” He still believes Ayton “can be one of the best centers in the league... still areas he can grow offensively, but I’m intent on really connecting with him and restoring him to an All-Star level player”
Vogel noted that he saw Ayton’s potential firsthand when the big fella dominated in his first career playoff series against Vogel’s Lakers. Ayton averaged 19.8 points (80.9% FG) and 13.5 rebounds over the first four games of that series before totaling just 16 points and 10 rebounds over the last two.
Game 1 vs the Lakers in the 2021 playoffs:— Thomas (@ThomasBuckets78) September 14, 2022
Deandre Ayton tallies 16 rebounds and 21 points on 10/11 shooting (90.9%!!!)
On the other end, Anthony Davis is held to just 7 rebounds and 13 points on 5/16 shooting pic.twitter.com/6eBSg0vaZL
Vogel touched on the assistant coaching hires, but was sure to note that he wouldn’t talk about roles for each coach before the staff was fully put together. So far, we only know about Kevin Young sticking around and the addition of David Fizdale.
Talking first about Fizdale, who Vogel says brings a great ability to adapt to the game as it continues evolving. Vogel also says he and “Fiz” have a “great chemistry” and truly enjoy working together.
He talked about the Suns’ wonderchild, Kevin Young, saying he “has incredible basketball integrity... he’s going to be a head coach in this league very soon... This is going to be a partnership that really works, and we’re going to have some firepower.”
Vogel said he was impressed by what Young was able to do offensively the last couple years, but noted that you don’t get to be a near-head coach in this league without being really good on both ends.
Finally, Vogel understands the situation he’s walking into and the pressure that comes with it. When asked about accepting the championship-or-bust nature of it all, he was quick to respond: