Courtesy of Josh Robbins
Orlando Sentinel: Your first training-camp practice is scheduled for Tuesday. How much are you looking forward to finally having a practice?
Frank Vogel: Very excited, obviously. I’m very much looking forward to it. We did a lot of things this summer to change the makeup of our roster, including the coaching staff and the style of play that we’re going to play. I look forward to getting after it.
OS: What did you talk about when you met and spoke with players this offseason?
FV: You get to know them. Most of the guys on this team I don’t know. I talk about their family, where they’ve been, where they’re going, how they’re getting situated here, where they’re living — all those types of things. We talk about their former team and on the court how they were used, how they would have liked to have been used and try to create that for them here within what we’re trying to do as a team. And then [I] just talk about our system: why we’ve had success.
OS: Is it correct that you envision using Aaron Gordon similarly to how you employed Paul George in terms of putting the ball in his hands?
FV: Yeah. Let’s see what he can do. I think he’s more of a 4 than Paul was. Paul is more of a 2/3. Aaron’s more of a 3/4. But I’ve seen a lot on tape that I think that he can do a lot of similar things. And, more importantly, by playing him at small forward we’re going to be really long defensively, which has always been sort of a trademark of those defensive teams in Indy, which is just to have length and athleticism on the perimeter and really at all positions. The difference between those teams and this team is the athleticism of our bigs: Bismack and Serge and their ability to switch and guard. It’s what we didn’t have in Indy. I think we can be in some ways better. But we’re going to have to see how good we are defensively with our perimeter guys.
OS: Do you have to rebuild Elfrid’s confidence? Last season probably didn’t go how he wanted it to go. From what I hear, he’s not a person who lacks confidence.
FV: He’s a smart guy, a confident guy. He strikes me as a guy who’s going to have a heck of a year. Obviously, you’ve got to reach a point in your career where you’re stepping up and you’re going to get the job done at a high level. It’s tough for guys in their first and second years to do that when they’re not surrounded by an already winning culture and veterans. So he had some growing pains, like this whole team did. But I think he’s poised to have a great year.
OS: I think you mentioned a while back that you envision Elfrid and Aaron being top-level defenders.
FV: That’s to be determined. But every report I get is that they’re elite defenders. But I’ll make that judgment as we coach them throughout the year just how good they can be. But they’re going to be pushed to be great, and I think they have the ability to be great.
OS: Are there special obstacles that come with inheriting five players who, in some cases, played for four coaches in the last three years?
FV: I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’m going to be the fifth and then [there will be] the sixth [coach] and the seventh. I feel like I’m here for the long haul. I feel like this is just the beginning of something. Where our guys came from and what their background is is not that relevant to me in terms of the turnover that they’ve had.
OS: With Indiana, you and your assistant coaches has success teaching Roy Hibbert proper angles on defense and the verticality rule. To what degree can those techniques be applied to Vucevic?
FV: I hope a lot.
OS: I mean, Vooch isn’t 7-2, like Roy is. But Vooch is a legit 7 feet.
FV: Roy’s got a knack for shot-blocking, and the things we did with him just aided and facilitated his instincts to go blocking shots. So I don’t want to come in and say that Vooch is going to become Roy Hibbert. But I think Vooch can be a lot better than he’s been. And I think some of those lessons we learned with Roy will apply to Vooch and how we use him and what he’s being asked to do.
OS: You’ve met Mario?
FV: He’s pumped to be here. He had a good Olympic showing. [There were] a couple of games where he didn’t get involved a ton, but in the last game he played really well even though they lost. He’s a young talent. He’s going to be somebody that’s a big part of what we’re doing.
OS: I thought in some of the Olympic qualifiers he was a good team player.
FV: No doubt. And that’s what this team’s going to be: This team’s going to be a team-first team, not a superstar show. That’s how we started in Indy. Paul George emerged as a star. We have some guys that can emerge as stars, but it’s not going to start that way. It’s going to start with a team-first team.
OS: What will the first few days of training camp be like? How intense will the practices be? How much teaching do you have to do?
FV: It’s really going to just be about togetherness: tying everybody together on the court. Defensively first. Then offensively also first. [Vogel laughs.] When we start the first day of practice, we’ll be about offensive togetherness and defensive togetherness and how that’s the most important thing that’s got to happen on both ends. Guys have got to communicate and be tied together.
OS: How much of that comes from you speaking to them? How much of that is going to be drill work?
FV: It’s defining it. It’s setting the goals that we want to achieve in terms of chemistry and on-the-court togetherness and then how it’s going to get accomplished and laying out the blueprint of what the scheme is going to look like.