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Suns fire coach Frank Vogel after first-round sweep against Timberwolves in NBA playoffs

The Suns tapped Vogel to lead their attempted super team before the 2023-24 season

            Sam Quinn

By Sam Quinn of cbssports.com contributing

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The Phoenix Suns fired head coach Frank Vogel, the team announced Thursday. The decision comes after a disappointing season in which the Suns, who expected to compete for the NBA championship, were swept out of the first round by a Minnesota Timberwolves team that had not won a playoff series in 20 years. Vogel lasted only one year on the job in Phoenix.

“As we said at the press conference on May 1, team leadership including myself, Josh Bartelstein, and ownership would be looking across basketball operations to determine what changes needed to be made,” Suns President of Basketball Operations and General Manager James Jones said in a team statement.

“After a thoughtful review of the season, we concluded that we needed a different head coach for our team. We appreciate Frank’s hard work and commitment. We are here to win a championship and last season was way below our expectations. We will continue to evaluate our operation and make the necessary changes to reach our championship-caliber goals. We all take accountability, and it’s my job, along with Josh and ownership, to build a championship team.”

Vogel was a somewhat surprising choice for the Phoenix job. Many reports indicated that the Suns were leaning towards promoting top assistant Kevin Young to the head job, but they ultimately elected to hire Vogel and make Young the highest-paid assistant in the NBA. The decision fit the apparent timeline new owner Mat Ishbia was operating under. After trading for Kevin Durant, the Suns were all in on winning immediately. Vogel had recently won a championship leading the Los Angeles Lakers, while Young had never been an NBA head coach.

But Vogel’s message seemingly failed to resonate with the Suns roster, and The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Doug Haller detailed several elements of dysfunction within the team this season after Phoenix was eliminated on Sunday. He reported that Durant “was not always happy with how he was used,” and “Phoenix’s players questioned the coaching staff’s inability to structure the offense.” Before Game 4, Vogel expressed to reporters that he was confident he would return to the Suns next season. “I have the full support of Mat Ishbia,” Vogel said.

Ultimately, Ishbia chose to move on, and Vogel has now lost two head coaching jobs in the past three years after blockbuster trades backfired. Despite winning the 2020 championship for the Lakers, Vogel was fired in 2022 after the team’s acquisition of Russell Westbrook ended with them missing the playoffs.

The Suns, meanwhile, are making a change a critical point in the franchise’s history if they plan to make good on the championship hopes that the Durant and Bradley Beal trades created. Young is seemingly not a candidate for the job this time around as he has taken the head coaching job at BYU. The Suns are likely starting from scratch in their second coaching search since last spring, and because of restrictions introduced in the new CBA, they probably won’t be able to make major roster changes to accommodate their hire.

That makes this decision absolutely essential to Phoenix. The Suns will likely run back a version of this year’s team next season with only a new coach in place to make the changes needed to get Phoenix back into the title hunt. In a loaded Western Conference, that will be no easy task.

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