Jeff Capel and Pitt have agreed to a deal that would make Capel the next head coach of the Panthers.
“I am honored to be named the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball program,” said Capel. “Pitt has a great tradition of success and I look forward to putting together a staff and team that will enable us to build on that tradition. As a lifelong Steelers fan, I know Pittsburgh as the ‘City of Champions’ and our goal from day one will be to recruit, coach and develop champions on the court, in the classroom and in the community.”
Capel has been the associate head coach at Duke since 2011, when he was fired by Oklahoma. He had been with the Sooners for six seasons, coaching Blake Griffin, after spending four years as the head coach at VCU.
“Pittsburgh just made an amazing hire to lead its men’s basketball program,” Duke’s Mike Mrzyzewski said. “Having come from a proud basketball family, Jeff Capel is one of the most dynamic coaches in the country. He possesses championship-level experience as both a head and assistant coach, as well as distinct knowledge of the Atlantic Coast Conference that will benefit Pitt immediately.”
“On a personal note, I want to thank Jeff for being directly by my side for the past seven years and completely committed to our mission at Duke and with USA Basketball. His insight, passion for the game, relationships with our players, and most importantly, his friendship have meant the world to me and my family.”
Capel reached the Elite 8 in 2009 with the Sooners, but he suffered two terrible back-to-back losing seasons the following two years. With those losses coinciding with a scandal involving money that was paid to the family of Tiny Gallon by a financial advisor, Capel and Oklahoma parted ways in March of 2011.
Pitt won just eight games this past season. They did not win a single game in the ACC, and they fired Kevin Stallings after just two seasons at the helm.
Bringing in Capel, however, is the kind of hire than can make an immediate difference. He’s a prover recruiter, both at Oklahoma and with the Blue Devils, where he has been point for a number of the talented one-and-done prospects that they’ve brought in. He won at VCU. He won at Oklahoma before the scandal.
The biggest problem that Pitt faces as a program is that they have no natural recruiting base. When Jamie Dixon had that thing rolling back in the day, it was because he was able to build a pipeline to New York City. But that pipeline dried up when the Panthers left for the ACC, which meant that they wouldn’t be playing teams from New York or in Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament.
Capel should be able to bring talent to Pittsburgh.
And that, at the end of the day, is the biggest hurdle a basketball team faces.