Waiting for Capel’s name to clear
By John Helsley
The coaching carousel spins on.
John Calipari to Kentucky.
Mike Anderson not to Georgia.
Jeff Capel to …
Where does the Oklahoma coach stand in relation to the carousel? On? Off? Total bystander?
Hard to tell. So far this offseason, speculation has ranged from right on to way off.
Capel was rumored to be the No. 1 choice at Virginia, which made some sense on that end considering his success at Virginia Commonwealth and his knowledge of the area. Also mentioned: Tubby Smith and Xavier’s Sean Miller.
Not at all mentioned: Washington State’s Tony Bennett, who took the job Monday.
At Georgia, where they reached negotiaton status with Mizzou’s Mike Anderson, Capel had long been rumored the frontrunner. One analyst listed Capel as the No. 1, No. 1a and No. 1b target of the Bulldogs a month ago.
Now there’s talk that he may be Plan B. Not sure how Jeff would warm to being Plan B to Anderson, but the guess is not so swell. Maybe Capel really was Plan A, but turned the Dawgs away early on, because, frankly, he’s already got a better job.
On the drive home from Memphis Monday, teammate Berry Tramel took a call from a writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who considered Capel to be Georgia’s top target. Berry didn’t have the heart to tell him that going from Norman to Athens was a step down.
Now the AJC is touting Capel as Plan B.
Wonder how many plans they have in place at Georgia? Bottom line, it’s a nice leverage job, just interesting enough for coaches to use to get better deals back home.
Anderson opted for a better deal to stay in Columbia, getting a bump to $1.5 million in a seven-year deal. Capel will be getting a bump of his own, to at least that figure.
Now there is one vacancy that bears monitoring: Arizona.
Their attention seems to focus on Gonzaga’s Mark Few. But Capel’s name is also being tossed about. Legit? Who knows?
Not long ago, and we’re talking the past calendar year, the Arizona job looked good. But that was before Lute Olson had to surrender his coaching position and recruits and players bolted.
Yes, it’s a basketball job, with football playing backup to hoops in Tucson. But it’s a basketball job that needs massive rebuilding, with many top analysts believing the Wildcats are at leat three years away from winning again.
There are also those who believe Olson spun some magic at Arizona. Local recruiting talent runs as dry as the dirt in the nearby Sonoran Desert. So the players have to come from far away. Drawing elite players to Tucson isn’t impossible, just difficult, although Olson found a way for years.
Arizona looks like a good job. But it doesn’t come without risk in a conference where UCLA is generally going to be great and Washington, USC and Arizona State are set up to be good for the long haul.
There’s also talk that money is tight in Tucson, meaning the Wildcats may not be going after their next coach with big guns.
Capel wants to succeed Coack K at Duke. And he’s on track, with some who claim knowledge of the situation saying Capel has clearly moved to the top of the list. The only thing that would change that would be a change in his winning pattern, something that isn’t likely to happen in Norman.
Capel carries the comfort of supreme working conditions in terms of relationships with athletic director Joe Castiglione and president David Boren. That counts for someting; counts for a lot. Barring somebody breaking the bank, Castiglione won’t let Capel leave over money.
Still, surprises happen.
And because Capel has done so well on so many fronts — coaching, recruiting, generating excitement — and become one of the hot young coaches, writers are going to throw his name into the hopper for just about every decent job that comes open.
It’s already happened. And it will continue until each and every job fills.
And all we can do is wait for Capel’s name to clear.
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