Dunlap: Capel Off The Cuff Impressed Me Most

Capel speaking without scripts at press conference said a lot

Colin Dunlap
March 28, 2018 - 3:42 pm

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

There was much to take in on Wednesday afternoon as new Pitt basketball coach Jeff Capel was introduced. 

There was palpable excitement -- that wasn't there the day two years ago (to the day) Kevin Stallings stood in that same facility and was introduced. 

There were the smiles on the boosters -- again, not there the day Stallings was introduced. 

There were questions that felt easy, ones that weren't as stinging or imploring someone to "come clean!" -- in that regard, this was all so different than the day Stallings was introduced to our fair city. 

I will never forget that day. It was the most bizarre press conference I have ever attended and I'm guessing none will ever top it. It was, plainly, a circus. 

Anyhow, back to Capel ...

You know what I noticed most about Jeff Capel speaking, as he stood there and delivered with elegance, grace and a direct way of getting his message across for what had to be about 15 minutes or so? He did it all without one notecard. He didn't have any lifelines or cheat sheets, no jotted down little sayings to save him or remind him. No paper, no reading glasses, no looking down at some prepared statement or even bullet-pointed helper list. 

None of it. Not one bit of it. 

Oh no. It was eyes to the crowd the full time. Delivering his message to the crowd with a sense of easiness the whole time. Make no mistake, this man commanded the room. Certainly it was a captive audience, but he captivated it to the max.  

"Tried that one time, used notes one time," Capel said after his speech in a smaller, more intimate interview with just a few reporters. "And I was terrible. It just wasn't me. It wasn't, and isn't, who I am." 

On Wednesday, however, we got to see who Capel was and is. He was -- and is -- that man standing up there confident and proud, with a clear and direct focus thanking those who helped him get to that point, then transitioning into his vision for Pitt and then finally fielding questions. And, again, what most impressed me is he did it all without any notes. The man spoke off the cuff, from his heart and his head, not a pretense about him. 

I don't know how you can not be impressed by his presence. 

"But I'm not here to win the press conference," he quickly interjected when I asked about his note-less approach. "I'm here to win games. That's what it important." 

Sure is.

But think of this: Think of that showing on the press conference stage and how Capel can use those skills in a living room. Think of how he delivered that message with nary a note and how such people skills, such confidence speaking to people he really doesn't know can translate into recruiting. Think of how Capel stood there with a firm and direct message about Pitt and it wasn't at all scripted and then how he can do the same in the living room of a prospect thinking of coming to Oakland to play basketball. 

There was a lot to be impressed by as Jeff Capel spoke. And he's right, it will be 100 percent about wins and losses. 

But as I sat there on Wednesday afternoon in the seats at The Pete and watched him, I couldn't help but be most impressed with how he steadily delivered his ambition for the men's basketball program at the University of Pittsburgh and spoke about all that he's learned in a long road here --- and did it without needing any references or reminders.