BOSTON -- Frank Vogel was leaving dinner at Abe & Louie's in Back Bay on Thursday night when a fellow patron shuffled over to intercept him.
"You the new coach?" the man asked.
Vogel nodded, but politely noted that he'd actually been a head coach in the NBA for the better part of three years. That only perplexed the man, who wondered out loud about how that could be if the Boston Celtics had only this summer hired their new head coach.
"I'm not the Celtics coach," Vogel explained for the second time that night, having been mistaken for Brad Stevens by his server a short time before.
Such are the perils of being a fresh-faced professional basketball coach. The 40-year-old Vogel admitted the error happens even more frequently in Indianapolis given 37-year-old Stevens' success at Butler University.
Stevens and Vogel became friends during their time together in Indy, often exchanging basketball-related text messages. With Stevens' head still spinning after being hired as Celtics coach in early July, he met up with Vogel at the Orlando Summer League and the pair dined for close to three hours while talking about the NBA transition.
"I was picking his brain," noted Vogel, suggesting it wasn't the other way around. "He’s a brilliant basketball mind. We were just sharing what the NBA is like, just some of the decisions he’s going to have to make, and I gave him some of my insight."
Much of that advice centered on Stevens being himself at the NBA level. Vogel implored Stevens not to change his demeanor or style from the collegiate level, suggesting that the bonds that Stevens forged with his players at Butler would be just as important as those he would form with his players in Boston.
"A lot of college coaches don’t run their team like this, where it’s kind of a partnership with your players, not a boss-employee relationship," said Vogel. "It’s a partnership. I think he’s always done that, so it’s just a matter of him continuing to be himself. And he’ll be successful."
Like any team in transition, the Celtics have endured their lumps this season, losing five straight heading into Friday's visit from the East-leading Pacers. Vogel reminded Stevens to embrace the process while navigating those rough waters.
"Frank was really helpful and really great to me," said Stevens. "We went out to dinner in Orlando at summer league soon after I got the job and talked for a good three hours just about all the little things that are coming. I’d probably ask all different questions now that I’ve lived it, that I’ve started to see it. It’s definitely different than what I was used to. But he, like everybody else that I’ve talked to, and all the coaches that I’ve talked to, have been great about, 'Just stay the course and know that you’ve got to keep the big picture in mind,' especially when you’re going through stretches like this."
It's probably not a surprise to learn that Stevens grew up a Pacers fan, so he was actively rooting for Vogel as recently as five months ago. Before Friday's game, Stevens playfully joked, "I grew up a Pacers fan and really that was the team I rooted for for the first 36 years of my life. And now, they’ve got their best team that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Of course that’s how it works, right?"
Then he added, "It’s fun a team to follow, a great organization, great leadership all the way throughout the organization. And I couldn’t be happier for Frank Vogel. I think he does a great job. I wish them all the best, just not three times a year."
Vogel likewise wants the best for Stevens. Even if he can't walk around Boston without people confusing him for the new Celtics coach. Did it at least get him a free meal?
"No, if I said I was Brad Stevens it probably would have," said Vogel. "I wasn’t very smart with my answer."