Jeff Capel has options galore
Published on Tuesday, 3/29/16, at 6:29 p.m. Eastern.
Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel has some tough decisions to make in the next 24-48 hours.
The former head coach at VCU and Oklahoma is Ga. Tech’s top target to replace Brian Gregory, who was fired several days ago after a disastrous five-year tenure in Midtown Atlanta. Also, Caple is on Vanderbilt’s radar to take over for Kevin Stallings, who bolted for Pittsburgh after a 17-year run in Nashville.
While Capel mulls those options, the 41-year-old former Duke point guard also has another factor to consider: When will Mike Krzyzewski retire?
Johnny Dawkins, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski were all long-time assistants under Coach K who have had minimal success as head coaches. Dawkins was just fired after a disappointing eight-year tenure at Stanford. He quickly landed the Central Florida job.
The jury is still out on Collins, who holds one of the most difficult gigs in the nation at Northwestern. The same can be said for ‘Wojo,’ who has recruited well but has yet to take Marquette to the NCAA Tournament in two seasons.
Those factors would leave most to believe that Capel is likely the heir apparent at Duke. He did an excellent job at VCU, leaving Anthony Grant a program that was ready to beat Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Grant’s first year with the Rams following Capel’s exit to Norman. Capel took Oklahoma to the Elite Eight with Blake Griffin, only to have back-to-back losing seasons afterward before getting run out of town.
But when does Coach K step away? Does he have only 2-3 years left in the gas tank, or could he last another decade?
Which is the better job these days, Vandy or Ga. Tech? The last 6-7 years for Bobby Cremins at Ga. Tech were a disaster. He had previously built the program up as a national power by recruiting the likes of John Salley, Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott, Brian Oliver, Tom Hammonds, Travis Best, James Forrest and Jon Barry. Cremins’ run included a Final Four trip in 1990 when the Yellow Jackets led UNLV at halftime before losing to the eventual champs in the Mile High City.
But things fell apart for Cremins in the late 1990s. His run at Tech ended in 2000.
Paul Hewitt took the Yellow Jackets to the national-title game in 2004, but he managed only three more trips to the Tournament over the next seven seasons. Gregory couldn’t get to the postseason until garnering an NIT bid this past year.
Vandy had plenty of success under Stallings, who had the Commodores in the postseason 12 times in 17 seasons. The ‘Dores were robbed of an Elite Eight trip in ’07 when the refs swallowed their whistles as Georgetown’s Jeff Green switched pivot feet for an obvious walking violation before hitting a game-winning bucket with 2.5 seconds remaining.
With the ACC placing six teams in the Sweet 16 this year while the SEC sent only three teams to the Tournament, the Ga. Tech job is clearly more difficult these days. With that said, both are solid jobs. You can win — and win big — at either place. Nashville and Atlanta are great cities, ones that can attract recruits of the highest order when the respective programs are thriving.
But Duke is Duke. The chance to have that head-coaching job hasn’t been on the table for anyone in more than three decades. Capel turned down Arizona St. last year. If he bets on Coach K retiring in the next 3-4 years, he’ll turn down Ga. Tech and Vandy, too. And it’ll be the correct decision.
Then again, Coach K might not go anywhere for nearly another decade. In that case, Capel could be mistaken in turning down his current options.