Capel An Impressive Guy

New Pitt coach easy to root for

Colin Dunlap
June 27, 2018 - 6:13 pm

© Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

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College basketball season is a long way away. Lots of stuff happening on the sports landscape between now and when the Pitt Panthers tip off. 

I can make one guarantee, however --- Pitt will win more Atlantic Coast Conference games than it did last season. Yeah, Pitt will win at least one. That's a sure bet, that's a certainty, I'd bet all the money I have that will happen. If the politicians weren't knuckleheads I could bet it right here in Pennsylvania, but that's another story. 

But Pitt being better in the league really isn't going out on a limb considering the abysmal performances turned in by the Kevin Stallings-led Panthers last season. Man, were they bad. It isn't a stretch to say they were one of the worst teams to ever represent this city. Bad, I mean really bad. 

But I'll go a step farther than just saying Pitt will grab an ACC win --- the program will be back to national respectability sooner than most think with Jeff Capel now firmly entrenched as the coach. He's got the basketball smarts, he's got the charisma, he's got the recruiting connections, he's got the pedigree and (perhaps this is most important) he's got the perfect mix of professionalism and a relatable personality. 

You see, for the first time on Wednesday morning, I had a bit of an audience with the new boss at Pitt, as Capel spent an hour on The Fan Morning Show. He spoke of how his team wanted to get out and run more, he spoke of how --- outside of a point guard --- his team was pretty much positionless and he spoke about taking the right steps to secure both better recruits and a beefed up non-conference schedule. 

But you know what he said that impressed me most? That it is his job to make sure college basketball players communicate more. And I'm not talking about within the confines of that basketball floor. Capel spoke of a recent trip he took the players on to Washington D.C. where one of the musts was that phones got stored away in pockets. It was a span of time where kids who are seemingly surgically attached to their iPhones had to unplug and --- imagine this --- look at each other and actually communicate face to face. Capel spoke of how such a skill is lost not just on men in the generation that he coaches, but in people of all ages in society. He also vowed to make communication within his club --- both on and off the floor --- a major point of emphasis. 

Quite simply, he holds steadfast to the notion that the better these guys know each other, the better chance they have of playing well with each other. Heck, it doesn't at all seem like some novel concept, but a simple one that gets lost in today's society where it's so easy to communicate with someone yet do it so impersonally. 

So there was all the stuff he said on Wednesday. You know, Capel talked about the ACC and his personnel and told people about his time with Coach K and even talked about ---- and this is tough for someone new to Pittsburgh --- how the roads in this town are so weird to try to navigate. 

But what stuck with me, what really resonated deepest was how he planned to build this program back with the most elementary of concepts --- if you don't communicate, if you don't have cohesion, if you don't act as one and know each other through and through you are dead before things even get started.  It doesn't matter how many 5-star guys you have. In all of Kevin Stallings' time here, I can't remember him once saying that communication was an issue when maybe, just maybe, it ended up being the foremost problem. 

Capel is clearly building this thing back up brick by brick, from the very foundation. And there's no better way to start than to make sure there's clear communication --- something that severely lacked in the old regime.