Oklahoma University caught most college basketball insiders – if not all of them – by surprise when it named then-31-year-old Jeff Capel as its 13th men’s basketball coach in April ’06. In three short seasons, Capel has made the OU decision makers who selected him look genius.
After serving four years as head coach at Virginia Commonwealth, Capel arrived in Norman ready to launch the OU program back into the national limelight, and he has done just that. In fact, Capel’s swift rebuilding project has netted him the most wins (69) and best winning percentage (.676) of any coach in OU history after three years at the helm.
The Sooners’ last two campaigns have been particularly impressive, with seven-win improvements occurring both seasons. Oklahoma posted a 23-12 record in ’07-08 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It followed with a 30-6 mark in ’08-09 and made the program’s first Elite Eight showing since ’03.
Last year’s 30-win season was just the sixth ever for the school. Capel watched his squad bolt to a 25-1 start and reach the No. 2 spot in the national rankings – the program’s highest perch in 19 seasons. The Sooners’ on-court exploits have been buoyed by Capel’s remarkable achievement on the recruiting trail. The energetic mentor with Tobacco Road lineage has signed four McDonald’s All-Americans in the last three years. OU had signed five such players in its history prior to his arrival.
Capel’s success at Oklahoma should come as no surprise based on his performance at VCU, where he recorded a 79-41 (.658) overall record and a 50-22 (.694) mark in Colonial Athletic Association play. His Rams boasted a 47-11 overall home record for a staunch .811 winning percentage.
In ’03-04, VCU’s CAA Tournament championship game victory over George Mason catapulted the Rams to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since ’96. VCU lost in the fi?rst round to Wake Forest, but not before putting a major scare into the fourth-seeded Demon Deacons, 79-78. Capel’s ’04-05 squad, which finished 19-13, competed in the National Invitation Tournament, marking just the third time in VCU history that it made consecutive postseason appearances.
The Rams won at least 18 games each of Capel’s four seasons at VCU with the ’03-04 squad registering a Capel-era-best 23-8 record. His first team finished 18-10 in 2002-03 as Capel tied a school record for wins by a first-year head coach. In ’05-06, VCU finished 19-10 overall and 11-7 in league play.
In ’05, Capel served as an assistant coach on the gold- medal-winning USA Men’s World University Games Team that finished 8-0 in Turkey. Capel began his coaching career as an assistant at Old Dominion University in ’00 before moving to VCU as an assistant for the ’01-02 season. In ’02, he became the youngest NCAA Division I head coach at age 27.
A four-year starter for Hall-of-Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke from the ’93-94 through ’96-97 campaigns, Capel earned Atlantic Coast Conference honors each of his seasons in Durham. The guard, averaged 12.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.7 3-pointers during his career. He ranks 22nd in career scoring at Duke (1,601 points), 16th in minutes played (3,774), sixth in 3-pointers (220), seventh in 3-point attempts (553), seventh in 3-point field goal percentage (.398) and 10th in assists (433).
Capel started 28 games as a freshman for a Duke squad that lost to Arkansas in the ’94 national championship game, 76-72. He led the Blue Devils in scoring as a junior (16.6 ppg) and helped Duke to a No. 8 fi?nal AP ranking as a senior. He averaged 26.5 points over Duke’s two NCAA Tournament games his ?nal year, the same season he was named an Academic All-ACC selection.
Responsible for one of the most memorable shots in college basketball history, Capel nailed a running, buzzer-beating 30-footer to force double-overtime against rival North Carolina in a ’95 home game. The contest ranked No. 1 on the list of 25 Greatest Moments in ESPN Basketball History and the play was nominated for an ESPY award.
Following graduation in ’97, Capel played professionally for two years. He spent the ’97-98 season playing for the Continental Basketball Association’s Grand Rapids Hoops. In ’99-00, he played in France before returning to Grand Rapids.
A standout prep performer, Capel was named the ’93 North Carolina High School Player of the Year after averaging 23.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists for 31-1 state champion Fayetteville South View. He set school career records for points (2,066), rebounds (668) and assists (663).
Capel boasts a strong basketball pedigree. His father, Jeff Capel Jr., was an eight-year Division I head coach at Old Dominion (seven years) and North Carolina A&T (one year), and currently serves as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats franchise.
Capel graduated from Duke with a BA in history. He and his wife, Kanika, have a two-year old daughter, Cameron.
Coach, we agree with Seth David of Sports Illustrated that your sideline demeanor and recruiting ability has made OU a huge success this season. Thank you for making this charitable event another success story, too.