INDIANAPOLIS - Two days before the NBA draft, Pacers coach Frank Vogel was handed a new task — finding another assistant coach.
A day after word leaked that Vogel's top assistant, Brian Shaw, had been hired as Denver's new head coach, Vogel told reporters he already has a list of potential replacements. The goal: Make a quick hire.
"I'm thinking like 3 or 4 o'clock this afternoon," Vogel joked Tuesday when asked about having a timetable for the hire. "Seriously, we'd like to do it as quickly as the process allows, making sure, of course, that we do our due diligence on the people we're bringing in here."
Vogel did not drop any hints of who might be on his list of candidates, but he did talk about a few essential skills the next assistant will need.
He wants someone who fits in with a young team that appears to be on the verge of becoming a perennial championship contender. Since Vogel took over as Indiana's head coach during the 2010-11 season, the Pacers have shown steady improvement — reaching the playoffs in Vogel's first season, winning a playoff series in 2012 and pushing two-time NBA champion Miami to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals this past season.
Shaw played a crucial role in the improvement over the past two seasons, building strong relationships with the younger players to help them excel on the court. He has been credited specifically by Vogel and others within the organization for the breakout seasons this year for Paul George and Lance Stephenson. George was named the NBA's Most Improved Player. Stephenson played key roles in playoff wins over Atlanta, New York and Miami during his first season as a starter.
It wasn't just the players who learned something from Shaw.
"The experience he brought to the Indiana Pacers through his playing days and his days as an assistant to the Phil Jackson and the insights he offered from the greatest coach in the history of the game during meetings helped me grow as a coach," the 40-year-old Vogel said.
Shaw's championship background and the stories about his own NBA career played well in the locker room, too. That's one reason Vogel is seeking an assistant with professional experience.
Assistant coach Dan Burke has spent the last 24 years in the league — all of it as an assistant coach, video co-ordinator or scout. Vogel's other assistant, Jim Boylen, went into coaching immediately after finishing his college playing career at Maine and never played professionally.
"I'll look at a lot of different types of assistant coaches," Vogel said. "I certainly think it's important to have a player or two on your bench to share their experiences with the guys."