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Pacers Coach Vogel Aims for NBA Playoffs After O’Brien Firing

Frank Vogel is the new coach of the Indiana Pacers and said he has 38 games to get into the National Basketball Association playoffs and boost his chance of removing the interim tag from his title.

Vogel takes over for the remainder of the season after the Pacers yesterday fired Jim O’Brien, who didn’t have a winning season in his 3 1/2-year tenure with the team.

The 37-year-old Vogel is moving into the head coach’s chair for the first time after spending eight of his 14 years in the NBA as an assistant. The Pacers have a 17-27 record and are 10th in the 15-team Eastern Conference, where the top eight teams make the playoffs. Indiana lost 110-89 to the Chicago Bulls two days ago for its seventh loss in eight games.

“We’ve got to make the playoffs,” Vogel told reporters at a news conference yesterday, “and we’ve got to be competitive in the playoffs.”

The Pacers had a 121-169 record under O’Brien, who joined the team in May 2007 after a two-year break from the NBA. He previously coached the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.

“Not only did he coach the team, but helped change the culture and move us in the right direction,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said. “He’s going to be missed but we move on.”

Bird said he expects candidates to replace O’Brien to get in touch with the Pacers.

“Usually when this stuff happens people start calling,” he said. “But obviously Frank’s going to be there for the rest of the year and we’ll see how it goes. If he does a good job he’ll be our first interview.”

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