NORMAN — A word of advice to the next men's basketball coach at Oklahoma, whoever he might be.
Learn from Jeff Capel's mistakes.
On the day OU fired its men's basketball coach after five seasons, many of the reasons were obvious. Not enough wins. Too many seasons without postseason play. Not enough fans. Too many NCAA investigations.
That's a recipe for a pink slip.
But Capel might still be sitting in his office at the Lloyd Noble Center today had there not been a massive disconnect between the coach and folks in Soonerville. Had he made a better connection with folks, something that was completely and totally in his control, he might've saved his job.
Are you listening Mr. Next Sooner Coach?
Capel never endeared himself to the Sooner Nation. Ask anyone in crimson about Capel, and you were way more likely to get a shrug than a strong opinion. There was little passion for him and even less love.
It's not that Capel is a boring person. He played at Duke. He came oh-so-close to the NBA, only to have his dream derailed first by a ruptured disk and then by an intestinal disease. He married a lawyer who is Yale educated.
The guy is interesting.
You know he has personality, too. Many of the recruits who signed with Capel over the years have talked of how they connected with him, bonding over shared musical interests or similar playing experiences.
Heck, I recall conversation last season with Thunder guard Eric Maynor who played for Capel at Virginia Commonwealth. He raved about Capel.
But the magnetism that many of the coach's players felt never crossed over to the world outside his basketball bubble.
Why he never connected is something of a mystery. The day his hiring was announced, Capel couldn't have been more charming. He told a story about how his dad made him and his brother do yard work even when the family could've afforded a lawn service, how it helped build character, how it taught him hard work.
Years later, Capel's dad would call him when times were tough.
“Man,” he'd say, “don't let the weeds beat you.”
I don't remember Capel ever being as open or personable again. He was cordial but never warm. He was professional but always cool.
The media should probably be the least of any coach's concern, but the trouble is, Capel had the same disconnect with fans who could've filled his arena and leaders who could've saved his job.
Frankly, all of this wouldn't have mattered had the Sooners won a bunch more games and been an NCAA Tournament regular under Capel. But when those things don't happen and NCAA investigators have reason to look into your program, you'd better be able to draw on some good will.
Capel's well was dry.
Don't think that matters?
Ask Pat Jones. He went 62-60-3 at Oklahoma State, but he kept his job as the football coach even as the Cowboys went through six consecutive losing seasons as well as an NCAA investigation.
The reason: people liked him.
Remember, too, Jones coached the No. 2 sport at OSU. Back then, basketball was king in Stillwater.
In Norman, football rules, and that gave Capel a little leeway. He didn't have to win a conference title every year. He didn't even have to go to the NCAA Tournament regularly. But when he didn't do that and his program prompted NCAA investigations, OU brass needed a reason to keep him.
Capel didn't give them one.
To the next coach of the Sooners, consider this a cautionary tale. Winning on the basketball court is paramount, but being successful in the court of public opinion could save your job.