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Jenni Carlson: Next OU basketball coach needs to connect with fans

by Jenni Carlson Published: March 14, 2011

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.

Tramel Blog: Firing was a business decision Tramel Blog: Football not a detriment

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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