FSU’s Hamilton: Capel Has Brought Swagger Back to Pitt

Seminoles coach complimentary after Pitt scores upset

Josh Rowntree
January 14, 2019 - 11:06 pm
Florida State Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton (left) and Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jeff Capel (right) shake hands before their teams play at the Petersen Events Center.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Right before the final horn sounded, the Oakland Zoo roared. A mocking Tomahawk Chop chant, followed by a “we want Duke” chorus rang down as Pitt, for the first time in 14 tries, topped a ranked team by way of a 75-62 victory over No. 11 Florida State at the Petersen Event Center.

It is, in reality, still too early to say that the state of the Pitt basketball program has been restored fully. But it is, however, heading in the right direction. 

At least that is what Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton thinks. 

“I think the people in Pittsburgh should be very happy that they have a guy who’s come in and kind of brought that swagger back that Pitt’s been accustomed to for over a number of years,” Hamilton said postgame. 

“They were resilient. A young team and, with as many young freshmen as they have on their team, and for them to be as focused as they are, says a lot about the coaching staff and how hard they’re working with them to give them the level of confidence that it takes to go out and compete the way they did tonight.”

One of those freshmen, guard Trey McGowens, dominated the night, scoring 30 points, including a 17-of-18 mark from the free-throw line. He added seven rebounds and led Pitt with four assists and five steals. 

Capel’s imprint on McGowens, point guard Xavier Johnson and guard Au’Diese Toney, has been evident. And it starts with a toughness that allowed Pitt to hang in the rebounding column with a team that had a monstrous size advantage over the Panthers. 

“We feel like we’re going to fight every time we play,” Capel said. “I think if we fight and play with some semblance of intelligence, we’ll have a chance. Look, there are teams that we’ll play against that are more talented than us. That’s the reality. But it doesn’t mean that they’re better teams.”

Pitt is now 12-5 and 2-2 in the ACC. Much like speculating on if Capel has fully turned around a once mighty program, it is also too early to say if Pitt has a realistic shot at the NCAA postseason.

But the Panthers are much farther along than many though. And that buzz, those chants, the explosion of the crowd on a blocked shot or a thundering dunk, could soon be in full force at the Pete. 

“Our staff does a great job,” Capel added. “From everyone, assistants, strength coach, everyone that’s in the foxhole with us. When I came here, that was my thing. I want people that are in the foxhole. 

“This is not a 9-to-5, this is a lifestyle. You have to be committed to it and, if you can’t, then you can’t be a part of it. You don’t deserve to be a part of it with the way that we’re building it.”

Hear all of what Jeff Capel had to say after Pitt’s 75-62 win over No. 11 Florida State.