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Coach Vogel shouldn’t be Pacers’ fall guy

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Frank Vogel seems too nice of a guy to be in his industry of choice.

At least that’s the Vogel media members see. Smiling. Accessible. Polite. Never raising his voice or altering his facial expression no matter how comically pointless the question he’s been asked.

How the Indiana Pacers coach acts and reacts behind the closed doors of a heated practice session might be something else entirely. There are times it probably is. Especially of late.

Indiana’s shoddy play over the final stretches of the regular season reduced Vogel in the eyes of the basketball-watching public from some sort of coaching boy wonder — think the hairline-challenged version of Brad Stevens — to a man scrambling to salvage his job.

Seven weeks is all it took, starting with the last-second 98-96 home loss to Golden State on March 4.

Klay Thompson’s turnaround jumper over George Hill with six-tenths of a second remaining proved the difference. They were only two of 6-foot-7 swingman’s 16 fourth-period points, though a lightning bolt of doom.

The Pacers have been a shell of their former selves ever since.

Blue Collar, Gold Dagger.

Twenty-two days later, Roy Hibbert completed the downward spiral by crashing to the floor after placing his jaw in front of a fast-moving LeBron James elbow.

Now Hibbert’s a shell of his former self.

As for the oft-questioned wheeling and dealing, we’re not privy to behind-the-scenes chats between Vogel, Pacers president Larry Bird and general manager Kevin Pritchard. It’s therefore impossible to slap a responsibility percentage on Vogel regarding the Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum acquisitions and Danny Granger’s departure.

Ten percent? Twenty-five?

More? Less?

Bird, whose job it is to hire and fire in the best interest of the franchise, will publicly shoulder the blame. He’ll deflect credit should the Pacers dig deep and magically pull a 180.

It’s who he is.

That said, Vogel should be retained as Indiana’s coach for 2014-2015 regardless how the remainder of this postseason plays out. Too many variables factor into this bizarre season to simply point an accusing finger at one person.

Derailments of this magnitude call for mass accountability — Bird, Pritchard, Vogel, Hibbert, David West, Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George ... a show of hands, please.

Getting rid of Vogel means two steps backward for a franchise responsible for so many strides forward these past few years. People forget it was only four years ago Indiana sputtered to a 32-50 record resulting in a fourth-straight postseason-less finish.

Coach Jim O’Brien. Mike Dunleavy. T.J. Ford. Josh McRoberts. Dahntay Jones. Brandon Rush. Troy Murphy.

Remember those guys?

These Indiana Pacers have a chance to be something special if permitted to absorb lumps and grow from them together. This recent collapse could wind up paying monster dividends next season and beyond as the ultimate I-told-you-so lesson in focus.

Who better to drive home this point than Frank Vogel?

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to mbeas@dailyjournal.net.

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