It’s hard to imagine Pitt basketball landing a better coach than Jeff Capel to lead its men’s basketball team. There’s a lot of things to like about him, but something that shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle is Capel will be making history.
He will become the first African-American to be coach for the Pitt men’s basketball program.
Capel addressed that bit of history in his opening press conference with the Panthers on Wednesday.
“Obviously, it’s an honor,” he said. “The plight for black coaches has been very different from our counterparts. It’s something I take very seriously and take with great pride. My dad was a guy that knocked down doors and did different things.
“I grew up in an era when my dad was friends with Coach Thompson, with Coach Chaney, Coach Richardson. Those are some the examples I’ve had as mentors that I’ve looked up to.”
Capel was an attractive candidate to Pitt because of his previous coaching experience and his reputation as a recruiter in the ACC. He coached at VCU and Oklahoma, leading both to NCAA Tournament bids in the 2000s. As an assistant at Duke most recently, he’s helped the Blue Devils land four 5-star prospects in each of the last four years.
Pitt is a major rebuilding project, but he should have plenty of time to establish his recruiting style and system. The Panthers and Capel signed a seven-year contract on Tuesday.
Capel is the second African-American coach hired in the ACC within the last 13 months. Of the 15 men’s basketball programs in the conference, four of them have African-American coaches.