- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Pacers scheduled a Wednesday news conference with Frank Vogel amid speculation that he will be the next head coach of the team he led to an encouraging finish last season.

Vogel will be joined at the news conference by Larry Bird, the Pacers‘ president of basketball operations who has called Vogel the favorite from the beginning of the search. Indiana was interested in Mike Brown, but the former Pacers assistant and Cleveland head coach took the top job with the Lakers.

Vogel took over for Jim O’Brien in the middle of last season and the team finished the year 20-18. The Pacers made the playoffs for the first time since 2006, losing 4-1 to top-seeded Chicago.

Early in his tenure, 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 Tyler Hansbrough and Paul George into the starting lineup and helped restore Roy Hibbert’s confidence.

The team 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. Hibbert just finished his third year, point guard Darren Collison and Hansbrough were second-year players and George was a rookie. All five are under contract for next season.

“I’ll be happy if Frank gets picked,” Hibbert said recently. “I’ve been with him since I was a rookie, so I hope he gets it.”

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