Jeff Capel has been here before. He is just better suited for it this time around.
The newly-hired Pitt coach credits that to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his tutelage while Capel was an assistant for the Blue Devils over the past seven years.
“Duke was necessary for me,” Capel said Wednesday at his introductory press conference. “I believe everything happens for a reason. When you get fired from a program like I did at Oklahoma, that’s not fun. It’s something that I probably always feared. … When I got fired, it was rocking to me and my family. It’s a complete life change, going from a head coach for nine years to being an assistant. It was interesting, but it was necessary.
“I learned during my seven years at Duke how to run a program. I thought that I was good before, but I know that I’ll be better now because I’ve had a chance to sit beside a guy that I think is the best to have ever done it. … I know I’ve become a better coach, and I think I will have better balance now as a head coach than I did before. I think I’ve learned to not take myself as serious as I once did. Those are the main lessons I learned over those seven years at Duke.”
Oklahoma fired Capel after the 2010-11 season. In his five years at the helm, the Sooners went 83-69 (33-43 Big 12) and made two NCAA Tournament appearances. Krzyzewski hired him as an assistant on March 8, 2011.
During his tenure, Capel was Duke’s lead recruiter, helping the Blue Devils notch four No. 1 recruiting classes in the past five years. Krzyzewski also turned to him to fill in as interim coach eight times over the past three years.
To have that level of trust from a legend like Coach K is telling to the type of coach Capel could be for Pitt.
Capel made the best out of a bad situation, seeking to learn as much as he could in preparation for his next opportunity. Now is his time to show just how much he has learned from one of the best to ever roam the sidelines.