Capel replaces Sampson at Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Mike Krzyzewski has developed quite a few coaching protgs in college basketball. Jeff Capel thinks he might not fit the same mold as the rest of his Duke brethren.

Capel, who agreed Tuesday to a five-year deal worth up to $850,000 annually to be Oklahoma’s new coach, played alongside Grant Hill on Duke’s 1994 team that went to the NCAA title game but lost to Arkansas. But he also endured a 13-18 season in 1995 while Krzyzewski missed 19 games following back surgery.

“My experience at Duke was different,” Capel said. “It was different from a lot of people that have played at Duke, especially more recently, because of all the things that I went through during my four years there.”

Capel’s run with the Blue Devils was still successful. His teams made it to the NCAAs three out of four years, although they didn’t make it past the second round after that 1994 run.

At times, he was thrust into the point guard position during the run to the Final Four, and now he thinks those types of experiences are paying off. At age 31, Capel was the third-youngest Division I coach last season.

“I had to grow up very quick there because a lot was expected of me as a freshman,” Capel said. “I had to learn how not to defer. I had to learn how to not be afraid to say things and to set a standard, to be an example for the rest of my team. I just think that’s kind of carried over.”

Along with growing up as a big brother, Capel credits his struggles with illness and injury after college and his three years playing in the CBA and in France with helping him to mature. When he was hired as Virginia Commonwealth’s head coach in 2002, he was the youngest coach in Division I.

Capel was 79-41 in four seasons with the Rams, including trips to the NCAA tournament in 2004 and the NIT in 2005 _ the school’s first consecutive postseason bids in 20 years.

“Obviously when you get an opportunity to be a head coach at 27, you have to grow up pretty quick,” Capel said. “I’ve always felt I was a little bit older than I was, and it’s because I’ve always kind of felt like I’ve been a leader.”

Part of Capel’s coaching philosophy comes from Krzyzewski and some is from his father, who’s an assistant with the Charlotte Bobcats.

“In a lot of areas, I’ve been heavily influenced by him,” Capel said.

Coach K’s other disciples have had mixed results.

Mike Brey coached Delaware to two NCAA bids and Notre Dame to three more before three straight NIT berths.

Tommy Amaker led Seton Hall to three NIT bids and a run to the NCAA round of 16 before taking Michigan to the NIT championship in 2004 and the NIT title game this season. Neil Dougherty took TCU to the NIT last year before going 6-25 this season. Three others lost their jobs this season: Quin Snyder resigned from Missouri, Tim O’Toole left Fairfield and David Henderson was fired by Delaware. For what it’s worth, Krzyzewski thinks Capel will succeed at Oklahoma. When Capel sought out Coach K’s advice, he was told Oklahoma is “one of the best jobs in the country.”

“Jeff is one of the best communicators I’ve known and he will continue the quality tradition of basketball there by building a program suited for long-term success,” Krzyzewski said.

Capel takes over a squad that loses three impact seniors in Taj Gray, Kevin Bookout and Terrell Everett and says he isn’t concerned about an unresolved NCAA investigation into more than 550 improper recruiting phone calls by predecessor Kelvin Sampson and his staff. Oklahoma is scheduled to meet with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on April 21.

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