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Friday, July 8, 2011

Pacers name Vogel head coach; Gilliam dead at 47


INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Vogel played the waiting game to become head coach with the same confidence that made him a favorite of both fans and players during his half a season carrying the interim tag.

News photo
Interim no more: Frank Vogel speaks at a news conference in Indianapolis on Wednesday after being introduced as the head coach of the Pacers. AP PHOTO

"They never told me I wasn't going to be the coach, so I just tried to carry myself like I was," the 38-year-old said Wednesday after the Pacers officially made him the head coach.

Vogel took over for Jim O'Brien in the middle of last season, went 20-18 to close the regular season and led the team to its first playoff berth since 2006. He didn't worry about the interim tag until after the season ended.

"Once I took over, I really didn't have time to think about big-picture stuff," he said. "I was just trying to win the next day and make sure I was prepared the next day. Once it all ended, and I realized how close I was, it was just exciting, and I was just hopeful and trying to carry myself the right way."

Vogel takes over a team that has plenty of young talent, playoff experience and significant salary cap space, should the labor situation get sorted out.

Danny Granger, at 28, is the oldest starter. Roy Hibbert just finished his third year, 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.

Pacers president Larry Bird made Vogel the favorite to get the job from the beginning of the search, then took his time making the decision official.

"As I stated after the season, I was in no hurry regarding the coach, mainly because I knew I had a good candidate in Frank," Bird said. "But we wanted to get through the draft, and I wanted to have numerous conversations with Frank about a staff that will cover all areas. I feel strongly he is doing that and this coaching staff, as a whole, will help this franchise continue to move forward."

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 instead of O'Brien's perimeter-oriented game. He moved Hansbrough and George into the starting lineup and helped restore center Hibbert's confidence.

His team quickly bought into his approach and the changes.

"I really felt it build up right from the beginning," Vogel said. "I started implementing changes right away. I think there was a belief in what we were doing."

As the Pacers started winning, calls to remove Vogel's interim tag grew.

"I'm overwhelmed," he said. "Every person in this building has been supportive of me, and I'm very grateful for that. I'm grateful for the fan support, and I'm grateful for the relationships that I've built this year and continuing to grow them."

Gilliam passes away


PITTSBURGH — Armen Gilliam, who was part of the UNLV Runnin' Rebels basketball team that made a run to the Final Four in 1987 and played for several NBA teams, has died. He was 47.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesday that Gilliam died Tuesday night at the LA Fitness gym in Bridgeville while he was playing basketball.

The office said the cause of death has not yet been determined pending an autopsy which is likely to be completed later Wednesday.

After college, the Phoenix Suns drafted Gilliam as the No. 2 overall pick in the first round of the draft. Besides the Suns, Gilliam also played with the then-Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz. He retired in 2000.

"We are deeply saddened to learn about the loss of Armen Gilliam," said Rod Thorn, president of the 76ers. "He was a hard-working, physical player during his distinguished 13 years in the NBA and we are proud of the contributions he made to the Sixers from 1990 to 1993.

"On behalf of the entire Sixers organization, we send our deepest condolences to the Gilliam family during this very difficult time."

Nicknamed "The Hammer," Gilliam was the leading scorer on the 1987 UNLV team coached by Jerry Tarkanian.

In a statement released by UNLV, Tarkanian, who coached basketball there from 1973-1992, called him one of the best players the university ever had.

"In my ratings, I had Larry Johnson No. 1 and Armen No. 2. He was such a great person. Everybody loved him and he loved everybody," Tarkanian said. "He was such a gentle person and such a caring guy. I am all shook up over it. I think the world of him and am just really shocked."

Gilliam's No. 35 UNLV jersey was retired during a halftime ceremony at the Thomas & Mack Center in November 2007.

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