Capel could become hot commodity
By John Helsley
Virginia fired its basketball coach, Dave Leitao, on Monday and within minutes of word hitting the streets, Jeff Capel’s name was attached to the opening.
Yes, Sooner fans, your Jeff Capel.
Capel’s name has been dropped before and still is with lesser jobs like Alabama and Georgia, which may be less than lateral moves, considering they are football schools, too, and have no great basketball tradition or sustained success.
But Virginia, that’s a real basketball job. And if you think you haven’t heard from them in a while, you’re right, but it’s no reason to think it’s not a gold mine in waiting.
There’s an almost-new gym, John Paul Jones Arena, opened just three years ago at a cost of $130 million. There’s lots of money among a committed group of boosters who ramrodded Leitao’s ouster. And there’s Sylven Landesberg, who led the Cavaliers with a 16.6 scoring average as an exciting freshman.
“A very good job,” said one plugged-in source. “Huge money. New arena. Best freshman in the ACC.”
The Cavs finished 11th in the ACC at 4-12 and went 10-18 overall.
That won’t do in Charlottesville, where they take their basketball very seriously.
So now Virginia is in search mode, with at least one eye on Capel.
The Sooner coach isn’t alone on the list and may not even be the frontrunner. Many at Virginia felt the school should have hired Minnesota’s Tubby Smith when the job was void five years ago. But they opted instead to write a smaller check.
Stories on the East Coast suggest Capel was on the radar then, as well, when he was a young-30s coach at Virginia Commonwealth, yet seen as too inexperienced at the time. That’s no longer an issue.
Money, apparently, won’t be an issue this time.
That’s why Smith and Capel, along with Michigan’s John Beilein, Villanova’s Jay Wright, VCU’s Anthony Grant and Xavier’s Sean Miller are the hot rumored candidates this time.
Smith might be the primary target, if they get him. His wife is from Richmond and he showed interest the last time. Former UVA great Ralph Sampson sent his son to play for Tubby at Minnesota.
But Smith is well compensated at Minnesota, long-term, too.
Capel’s appeal would be obvious, given his former success at VCU, his track record for recruiting the area and his quick turnaround of the Sooners serving as proof he can pull off a quick rebuilding job, although the ACC is a different monster entirely from the Big 12.
Maybe there are reasons for Capel to stay away from Virginia.
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