New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel took a job directly inside the lion’s mouth when he signed up with Los Angeles. He was their third choice for the job, he has to balance the demands of marquee players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis with what GM Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss want, and he has to do all of it while the Los Angeles media reports on his every word and decision.

For having so much on his plate, Vogel was extremely sanguine when he spoke with Sports Illustrated recently. He knows he’s walking into a challenging situation, but one with a lot of positive aspects. James and Davis are two big ones, even considering James’ history with coaches. Vogel knows that coaches James doesn’t like don’t last long (he’s replacing Luke Walton, after all), but he told SI that he feels he has both support and respect from James.

“I did feel support right from the start from LeBron. He’s always shown me a great deal of respect dating back to our battles when I was in Indiana and competing with the Heat in the conference finals, and coaching him in the All-Star Game. He’s always shown me a great deal of respect, so I felt like there would be a lot of support, and there was immediately and that’s continued on through up to this point. Hopefully we can work together to build something special.”

That’s not a small thing, because any lasting, successful relationship the two will have has to be built on support and respect. James has to respect Vogel and his decisions as coach, and Vogel has to recognize that coaching James is different than coaching almost any other player in the NBA.

Vogel also had glowing reviews of Jason Kidd, as assistant that the Lakers wanted Vogel to include on his staff. That requirement is what made Tyronn Lue turn down the Lakers job, but Vogel told SI that he’s completely on board.

“I’ve gotten really comfortable with Jason. What I would say is every assistant coach in the NBA wants to be head coach. Jason’s no different in that regard. It was brought to my attention that they had an interest in bringing him on as an assistant … we had a great talk and a great interview and he’s in a terrific place … when I interviewed him and we had a great talk, it became very clear that we are aligned in what we could accomplish as a tandem.”

EL SEGUNDO, CA – JULY 13: Coach Frank Vogel during the presentation as new player of Los Angeles Lakers on July 13, 2019, at UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, CA.(Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Vogel doesn’t discuss whether Kidd is a built-in back-up plan in case he fails, but you wouldn’t expect him to (though that’s clearly the case). He’s very aware that everything he does and says, both on and off the court, is going to be under the microscope. Vogel isn’t just ready for it, he told SI that he’s looking forward to it.

“The Lakers have always been on the forefront and anywhere LeBron has been, has been on the forefront. The best experience I’ve had is being in the conference finals against LeBron because that’s exactly what it was like then. Every word I said then was blasted all over the world, all over Twitter and SportsCenter.

“That’s going to be the case here with the Lakers. It’s not something that I’ve not been a part of, but it’s just part of this job. You know, I understand it. I don’t think there’s anything negative about it. I love that our team’s going to be talked about and I love that we’re going to be one of the favorites in the league this year after having coached a number of little engine that coulds’, you know? It’s teams that were all the overachieving type. So I like being viewed as one of the favorites.”

Some of Vogel’s answers sound exactly like what they are: words from a guy who hasn’t really started his job yet, has no idea what to expect, and is trying to be positive about everything. You can’t ask for much more from Vogel, who clearly knows he wasn’t anyone’s first choice.

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