Lakers 2019-20 Y earbook i 125
Hard Work a Career Staple for Head Coach Frank Vogel
By Mike Trudell
Frank Vogel came to a crossroads in his life after his junior season of Division III
college basketball at Juniata College in Huntington, Penn.
Would he stay on his pre-med route to becoming a doctor and get set for his
senior year of hoops? Or would he transfer to Division I powerhouse, the University of
Kentucky — despite not having an actual job there — to try and catch on with Coach
Rick Pitino’s program and try to open the doors to the dreams of a future in coaching?
As it turned out, watching an NCAA Tournament game helped him make his
decision. It was Kentucky vs. Duke in the 1992 East Regional Final, one of the most
famous games in basketball history, that ended with Christian Laettner’s buzzerbeater.
Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski were Vogel’s two favorite coaches, and he
decided right then that he had to go for it. He had to give up his senior year of
basketball and the pre-med track, and transfer to UK.
“I knew if I finished in Division III, I’d have been there the rest of my life, and
that was a part-time commitment for most DIII schools at that time,” said Vogel.
“My coach was a teacher during the day, and he coached DIII in the evenings. My
passion was too strong for that. I wanted to work as hard as Rick Pitino worked.
My Christmas break was three weeks, during the season … I’d go home and watch
Rick Pitino have double sessions on Christmas Day. That’s how much I cared about
winning, and I wanted to be part of that type of commitment.”
The thing was, Vogel didn’t know anybody yet in the coaching business. And
he knew he had to find a way to get in front of Pitino. So he started writing letters
to the University of Kentucky about transferring, and more letters to the Five Star
Basketball Camp, volunteering to be a coach because he knew Pitino would go
there to recruit.
Vogel had been a player at the camp, and formed a relationship with the
director, Howard Garfinkel, who ended up introducing him to Pitino. Almost more
importantly, he met Pitino’s top assistant, Jim O’Brien, who’d become integral in
actually getting Vogel in the building in Lexington.
“I told him I was trying to transfer down to Kentucky, that I’d written letters and
gotten a lot of form letters back that said, ‘We don’t have anything for you, thank
you for your interest,’” Vogel explained. “I told him ‘I think I can help your program,
I’d love to walk on, but if I can’t, I’ll be a student assistant coach, student manager,