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Putting Indiana's Pace in Perspective

While it's fair to say we took a swing and a miss on Indiana, there was one random comment Patrick made regarding the Pacers that's stuck with me. Namely, Patrick thought Frank Vogel was a prime candidate to get fired. Now, as the Pacers lead the NBA in wins, that seems unlikely. However, I stand by the statement. You see, the killer of coaches is unrealistic expectations. Let's put the Pacers current performance in perspective. 

Pacers' win percentage recorded on January 5th 2014

The Pacers winning percentage would currently place them sixth all-time in NBA history. Their spot is a bit ominous as Indiana's neighbors -- the 1973 Celtics and 2007 Mavericks -- failed to even make the finals. That said, the Pacers current performance is indeed historic. This actually bodes poorly for Vogel. If the belief is that the Pacers are indeed an all-time great team, then it's easy to "underperform". Even Phil Jackson was ousted from Los Angeles after his team "only" won 56 wins and "only" made it to the finals. If the Pacers playing at 11 isn't considered amazingly anomalous, then rest assured if they had "underperformed" as a 50 win team then Vogel would have been in trouble.

The worst place a coach can be is on a team playing above their level. Maybe this Pacers team is one of the greatest. At 6th place, they would currently rank in the top 0.5% ever! Maybe they're running hot. Either way, I'd be nervous about my job if I was Vogel.

I don't think these guys will stay this good. I still have faith that Danny Granger can shoot the Pacers in the foot down the stretch.
I don't disagree that unrealistic expectations are important factors in getting coaches fired. But I don't think there are many people who expect this team to maintain their current winning percentage, so the expectations are probably lower than being the 6th best team ever.
As a long time Pacers fan, I think there is merit to this idea. I always caution fans by reminding them that an NBA championship might be the toughest to win in all of sports. All teams progress by first getting to the conference finals and losing. Then they get back and win. They go to the finals and lose. Then they get back and win. Thus, it takes most squads three years to make the transition. The Heat were able to skip a step by going straight to the finals and losing with a new line-up...and look what grief Spoelsta had to endure till the next year. Even if the Pacers had beaten the Heat last year, I still think they would have lost to the Spurs. The Pacers got man-handled by the West last year, but have looked much better so far this year. We'll see. Fans are what they are. I still think the Pacers need to swap out one piece, but I'm not sure which. I sure wish we had Plumlee backing up Hibbert and not Mahinmi. That's for sure.
If the Pacers lose to the Heat in the ECF, Vogel will be fine. Any other exit out of the playoffs would be very bad (but also VERY unlikely given the east this year.

But remember that I made this prediction at the beginning of the year when I thought the Pacers would be a 45-50 win team, and the O/U in Vegas was 55.

At this point, I think even Pacers fan realize that their current pace is well above the preseason expectation. However, if they go on to win 60 and lose to the Heat, I think Vogel could have a rough 14-15 season, because the pressure is there to win MORE THAN 60 and beat the Heat. And it's really hard to win 60+ games, even for great teams. Having that as a bar is rough for a coach.
I think he's fine for now. Patrick might be right about expectations for next season. Bird seems to have complete control of the organization. After they went against his wishes and hired Isiah Thomas instead of Carlisle as his coaching replacement and then had to come back to Bird to fix the mess that was created his decisions seem to be rubber-stamped. We'll see what happens but barring a complete meltdown I think Vogel is completely safe this year and will make it through next year without any issues.
I never liked taking a team's current W/L and projecting it out to a full season at the same winning percentage; the smaller the sample, the more hot/cold streaks matter than long run performance.

How well do they stack up against other teams 33 games into the season? How have other teams 27-6 after 33 games fared over the rest of the season?

Scribbling on the back of a napkin, a 27-6 record through 33 games should be roughly 2.5x as common as a 67-15 record at the end of the year, due entirely to sample size effects. Taking that into account, the Pacers project to a 63-64 win team - not bad by any stretch, but not quite as rosy as a season headed for the history books.
You don't state when he's likely to get fired- do you mean next season or two seasons down the road? He won't be losing his job this season. If you're forecasting 2-3 years out, the risk of job loss applies to most coaches in the NBA.
Based on his track record (conf finals last year, likely good result this year), he would almost certainly get re-hired pretty quickly. You're conclusion is that coaches will be better off if their team underperforms?

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