INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — In the midst of the NBA lockout, Frank Vogel is busier than ever.
The Indiana Pacers' new coach is spending much of his time getting to know his new assistant coaches, Brian Shaw and Jim Boylen, and figuring out how to blend their skills with those of holdover Dan Burke.
"Specifically because we have new assistants, we're meeting more than we normally would, discussing game plans, getting on the same page with terminology, our approach toward our team and just picking the brains of my new assistants," Vogel said.
Shaw comes to the Pacers after being an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers since 2004. He was part of five championship teams with the Lakers, three as a player and two as a coach. Boylen was head coach at the University of Utah from 2007 to 2011. In the NBA, he earned two championship rings as an assistant for the Houston Rockets before stints as an assistant at Golden State and Milwaukee. Vogel said Shaw is focusing on familiarizing himself with the Eastern Conference, while Boylen is reacquainting himself with the NBA.
Though Shaw is the lead assistant, the staff will share responsibilities.
"We're going to get away from the compartmentalized approach," Vogel said. "Everybody's going to do everything. They are strong in all areas."
Vogel is excited because of the mentorship his new assistants have received — Shaw worked under Phil Jackson, while Boylen worked under Rudy Tomjanovich in Houston in the 1990s. Most of all, he likes their rings.
"That's where we're going," Vogel said. "That's where the Pacers are going, and that's what we wanted to bring in in terms of beefing up the experience of our coaching staff."
The excitement level about the Pacers remains high. For example, while walking from Conseco Fieldhouse to a downtown Indianapolis restaurant, a group of construction workers stopped Vogel and asked him to sign their hard hats.
"To be embraced the way I have by this community, I really don't have any words for it," he said.
After years of apathy, fans are starting to embrace the team again, in part because of its potential. The team has young talent and playoff experience, and will have significant salary cap space when the labor situation gets sorted out. Danny Granger, at 28, is the oldest starter. Roy Hibbert has played just three years, point guard Darren Collison and forward Tyler Hansbrough were second-year players, and Paul George was a rookie. The team added local star George Hill in a draft-night trade.
Vogel took over for Jim O'Brien at the middle of last season. Early in his tenure as interim coach, Vogel said Eastern Conference powers Boston, Miami and Orlando wouldn't want to play the Pacers when — not if — they made the playoffs. He introduced "smashmouth" ball, an approach that focused on attacking the basket. He moved Hansbrough and George into the starting lineup and committed to Hibbert as a centerpiece. The Pacers went 20-18 to close the regular season and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Part of his desire to get started is the residue from the playoff loss to Chicago. Indiana lost the series 4-1 despite having a legitimate chance to win four of the games.
"Everyone says how good we did against the Bulls, and I just don't see it that way," Vogel said. "I just feel like we should have won that series and we should have gone deep in the playoffs. I really believe we've only scratched the surface of what we're going to accomplish as a team."
His confidence in the group he has fuels him as he prepares.
"I want to be ready," he said. "Whenever we get started, we're going to be ready. I can't wait to get started. I'm chomping at the bit."
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap