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Capel follows familiar path back to basketball

Posted on: May 10, 2011 2:55 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 6:37 pm

Posted by Eric Angevine

Will it be strange for Jeff Capel to go back to taking orders after nine years of calling his own shots, first at VCU and then at Oklahoma?

It might be, but then again, he'll be listening to his mentor, Mike Krzyzewski, the man who coached him when he was wearing the Blue Devil uniform. Taking pointers from a legend probably doesn't sting too much. Regardless of how he feels about it, Capel is not alone. Deposed head coaches often begin their comebacks as assistants; there are plenty of examples in the sport today.

One of the more prominent return-to-the-sidelines stories of the past season involved Steve Lavin's decision to return from broadcasting. Not content to put an end to his own time away from coaching, Lavin also talked his mentor, legendary former Purdue coach Gene Keady, out of retirement. Keady's return is certainly not predicated on the notion of getting back to head coaching - it comes across as almost a favor to Lavin, who has been criticized for a perceived lack of strategic knowledge of the game. Keady seemingly serves in that capacity, as well as playing senior advisor and best buddy to his former protege.

Capel almost certainly expects to end up back in charge of a program again, though it won't likely be Duke. With Chris Collins and Wojo ahead of him, and Coach K not looking to depart any time soon, it's much more likely that some school out there will put him back in charge within the next couple of seasons, once the stink of his departure from Oklahoma has a chance to die down.

It's tough to say whether Capel is making the right move, but it's the best move available to him right now. He doesn't seem like the TV analyst type, with his permanent glower in place. Looking at the other former head coaches in the ACC, it's obvious that attempting to get back into the limelight by taking a second or third seat on the bench is a strategy that yields mixed results.

Look at North Carolina. After leaving Roy Williams' Kansas staff for two years as head man at Tulsa and another five in charge of Florida State, Steve Robinson came back to Williams' side in 2002. In seven years as a Tar Heels assistant, the coaching carousel has never come back around for Robinson, who is nevertheless known as one of the game's top recruiters.

Just down the road in Raleigh, new head coach Mark Gottfried has shored up his staff with a couple of guys who are likely on different paths. Orlando Early spent five seasons as head coach at Louisiana-Monroe, going 60-92 in the Sun Belt. He spent one season as an assistant at South Carolina after that before Gottfried came calling. Bobby Lutz, on the other hand, had a pretty nice 218-158 record in 12 years at UNC-Charlotte, and was Early's boss for much of that time. Many feel Lutz was unjustly let go by Charlotte, and expect him to find another head job sooner rather than later.

The most experienced former head coach on an ACC roster might come as a surprise, however. Look to Charlottesville, where the youthful Tony Bennett was able to lure Ritchie McKay to be his right-hand man. McKay has a long history of short hops, spending two years each at Portland State, Colorado State and Oregon State before taking a rather leisurely five years at New Mexico. Then it was two years at Liberty (he couldn't follow Seth Curry out the door fast enough) before he joined Bennett. McKay only made the NCAA tournament once in all those years, and his 204-186 overall record seems pretty indicative of what he's capable of. Still, McKay is only 46, so a decent mid-major job might yet again tempt him into the coach's box somewhere else.

Even Boston College is in on the act. Former Cornell coach Steve Donahue snapped up Joe Jones, who spent seven years rowing against the tide at Columbia before his 86-108 record did him in.

Capel is known as a good recruiter. His inability to keep some of his star players in line thereafter was a big part of what led him to this pretty pass. If he learns how to overcome that weakness under Coach K's tutelage, there might yet be another program willing to take a chance on the fiery young coach. He's still 36, has a reasonable 61 percent winning mark, and even served an undefeated stint as the head coach of the FIBA U18 team for USA Basketball last year.

While his exit from Oklahoma was hardly a positive move, the future may yet be very bright for Jeff Capel.

Photo: US Presswire

Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2011 10:26 am
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Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: May 11, 2011 9:51 am

Capel follows familiar path back to basketball

Apparantly you do, since you took the time to comment on it.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: May 11, 2011 2:32 am

Capel follows familiar path back to basketball

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