Q&A with Jeff Capel

Capel talks about the task ahead, his playing days at Duke, relationship with former coach Mike Krzyzewski and much, much more. (AP Photo)

The University of Oklahoma introduced Jeff Capel as it's new head men's basketball coach on Wednesday. After his introduction, he met with the media and talked to a few of us in an informal setting about being the coach of the Sooners.

JH: Coach Sampson told me that he has known you for a long time, because your dad and his father coached against each other in high school. Do I have that right?

JC: "Yep, they did. Coach Sampson and my dad actually played against each other in high school, and they have known each other for a while. Obviously, like I mentioned in the press conference, coach Sampson is a guy I look up to in this profession just because of what he has accomplished, and the manner in which he has done it. He loves his family and you always see his wife on TV or her family. He is someone that I have a great deal of respect for. I am fortunate that he is just a phone call away, not just because I am here now, but because it has always been that way."

MEDIA: Talk about coaching in the Big 12.

JC: "Obviously, it is one of if not the best conference in all of college basketball. First and foremost, that is because of good players, and what attracts good players is good coaches. If you look at the coaches who have been through here and in the Big 12, if you look at the success that the teams have had here then you see success. You look at it now and you see coach (Rick) Barnes at Texas and Mike Anderson, who just got the job at UAB, is a coach that we played at UAB when I was at VCU, and he is very good. Obviously, coach Knight at Texas Tech, Bill Self at Kansas, it just goes on and on because there are so many good coaches in this league. It is what makes it one of the best leagues in college basketball."

JH: How much of your dad (Jeff Capel Jr.) is in your coaching?

JC: "A lot, but that is just me as a person. A lot of what you see is what I was taught growing up as a young kid. My dad has always been my hero and I was very fortunate that I could talk to my dad every day. I had athletes that I admired when I was younger and growing up, but I had one hero and he is the guy who I have always wanted to be like. I was very lucky, and very fortunate to have him there. A lot of my philosophy as a coach does come from dad, and it is part of my experiences at Duke. It is also some of my own and some of the thoughts that I have had throughout the years. However, my father is a very important person in my life, the guy I talked to after almost every game. And just about every day, actually, we talk in some form or fashion."

MEDIA: Don't you think that your situation is different than most coaches in that you are taking over a program that is a top 20 program that has a top 10 recruiting class coming in?

JC: "That is what makes this job unique and what makes it so attractive. Obviously, coach Sampson didn't leave the cupboard bare and there is an excellent tradition there. It is a tradition of excellence, just how good they have been and the success that OU teams have had. The thing we want to do is come in and take it to another level. We want to try to win championships. They have been to a Final Four in '02 and we want to get there again and try to win the whole thing. "One of the things that OU has done is that they have established themselves as one of the premiere teams in the Big 12. And when you are one of the better teams in the Big 12, to me you always have a shot at winning the whole thing because of how good this league is. I am grateful for all that coach Sampson and coach (Billy) Tubbs, and all the previous coaches and players have done, because it is what has made this job such an attractive job. It is why I am honored to be the leader of the program now."

JH: Have you had a chance to talk to the recruiting class yet? And if not, is that one of the first things that you have to do? Also, do you feel you need to hit the road recruiting for an additional player to add to the roster?

JC: "I have tried to make contact with all of them. Obviously, it was really hard because it was such a whirlwind last night. Once I found out I had the job we didn't expect it to leak out, but it did and so by the time it leaked and we realized it was out we also realized that it was too late to make any calls last night. This morning was just kind of blur. I didn't really sleep last night. I have talked to one, I have talked to Scottie (Reynolds). I know Scottie because he is from Virginia, and I know him pretty well. I have tried to talk to the rest of the guys, and I have talked to Damion's (James) coach. That is the first thing that I have to do.

"To me, my priorities as a coach are obviously getting to know our team here, getting to know these guys and building a relationship and a trust with those guys. At the same time, our five recruits are part of our team. So building and cultivating a relationship with those guys and just making sure they are still on board, even though I don't think we are going to have any problem with that, but we are just making sure. I just want to give them a chance to get to know me and to get to know their coach."

JH: Are you bringing your assistants with you to Oklahoma?

JC: "I am not sure. Everything is happening so fast and everything has kind of been a blur. I am definitely bringing one guy with me (Mark Klein) and the other one's I will just have to talk to them. I had just made a change on my staff last week, so I have to see if those guys are willing to move and things like that. I know that one guy will definitely come with me and after that we will see what happens."

MEDIA: You have recruited players from all over the country, but not the state of Texas. Do you feel you can recruit the state of Texas?

JC: "Texas is huge for us. Texas is a huge talent bed. It is a big state and they have really, really good players there. That is a state that we will definitely recruit very hard and very well. One of the things that excites me about this job is that you can recruit nationally here. I really truly believe that this is one of the best programs in all of college basketball, and when you are at a university like this kids want to come to OU.

"Kids want to come here. I don't anticipate recruiting being that hard. If you want to see hard, try going into a Nike camp at VCU and you have 'VC' on your chest and all those kids are looking at OU. They were looking at all the schools in the ACC, Big 12, Big East and we always had to wait until those schools said no. So we are going to do everything that we can to recruit really hard and bring in the right student/athlete's here that are going to fit the style of play. More importantly, they are going to fit into the standards that we set for our program, which is the standard of excellence."

MEDIA: Florida proved that a so-called football school can win basketball championships as well, that can certainly happen at a school like Oklahoma?

JC: "I certainly think so. I think Oklahoma has proven that as well over the years with what coach Sampson has done. Obviously, we have a great football tradition here and that is what the University is known for, and that is what it will always be known for. I have no problems with that. Coach (Bob) Stoops is one of the best coaches in all of college football and I am honored to know him.

"I am going to pick his brain and just figure out what he has done and just how has he been able to have the success that he has had here. Obviously, you can have tremendous success in basketball here. You look at coach (Sherri) Coale, who has been able to do that on the women's side. Coach Sampson has done it, so we are not going to measure ourselves against anyone else's standards. We are going to measure ourself against our standards. Our standards are very high and there has been a bar that has been set. We want to try to achieve that and maybe set the bar a little bit higher.

MEDIA: Kelvin won here, but attendance waned at times. Will you try to take an active role in trying to increase attendance?

JC: "My staff and I are going to try to get out and know everyone. I had those same issues when I took the job at VCU, and this past year we set the attendance record for our new building. We had the highest attendance and the highest student attendance. That was because of hard work from our marketing department at VCU, our coaching staff, and more importantly our student athletes. They are the ones that have the connection with the students, because they are there with them.

"As a former student/athlete, sometimes when you get to school you only feel comfortable around other student/athletes. We are going to constantly preach to our guys for them to be a part of student life, get to know these people and develop relationships with them. I am big on relationships and when you do that they get to know you and then they want to come out to games. I will play a very active role in it, our marketing people, sports information people, everybody will do an active role in trying to do everything. The bottom line is that when you win people want to be a part of it. That is what we are going to try to do."

MEDIA: Do you know what those numbers were in attendance?

JC: "This year we averaged 5,700, which was the third highest in our league. That was the highest that our program has had since 1999. That was the highest that VCU has had since our new building was built. We did that with a lot of hard work and gradually it increased each year and this year it was the highest."

JH: When your name first came up a lot of people remembered you from the great shot you made against North Carolina? You are actually known for a little more than that now, but that was some shot?

JC: "That is interesting, because I am recognized for that shot a lot of time. But a lot of people don't realize that we lost that game (laughing). That is something that is a huge part of me, my experience at Duke. I love and cherish it. It was an honor to play for Coach K, wearing that Duke uniform, the relationships that I was able to develop there with my teammates, and the people in the Duke community is something that will last with me for a lifetime. I think I have done something good to get this job in my four years as a head coach, and hopefully people will start to remember me now more for the excellence that we are going to strive for here at Oklahoma than for a shot that I hit 11 years ago."

JH: Yeah, but it was a good shot coach?

JC: "Yeah, it was a good shot. I knew it was good when I let it go too (laughing)."

MEDIA: When this job came open did you immediately say that is a job that I would like to have? Did you send any feelers out?

JC: "I thought to myself that 'wow' that is one of the best jobs in college basketball, but I didn't apply for the job. I didn't send any feelers out. What happened was that last Wednesday I was actually getting ready to go down to Portsmouth, Va. because one of our players, one of our graduating seniors at VCU was playing in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. That is first NBA pre-draft camp, and it is for all seniors. I was going down to see the first kid that I ever signed play as he got invited to play in it. During that time, I got a call asking if I would be interested in the Oklahoma job. I was a little bit shocked, but obviously I was extremely interested. That is how the process started and obviously it was a pretty quick process."

MEDIA: Did the NCAA investigation concern you at all?

JC: "No, it didn't. Joe did a great job of explaining everything that has happened. They were very open about communicating on everything that has happened. They were very open about communicating all the self-imposed sanctions. I know we go in front of the infractions committed on the 21st, but it didn't scare me at all. It was a mistake that was made and I think coach Sampson would attest to that, but you have to move forward. That is what I was taught to do. Coach (K) always talked to us about moving on to the next play. I don't think that is going to deter anyone from wanting to become a part of OU basketball."

MEDIA: Will you put Duke on the schedule?

JC: "I don't know, because coach has a thing about scheduling former players. That is just something of his. If you notice, when I was in school we always played Michigan every year and now that Tommy Amaker has the job he has ended that series. That is just something that is very difficult for coach, so I don't know if that is going to happen."


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories