NORMAN — Joe Castiglione stands behind his basketball coach. Joe C. might do the same even if he wasn't pulling for Jeff Capel to succeed, which Castiglione most certainly is.
Athletic directors don't like to fire coaches. It's a hassle. And sometimes, switching coaches doesn't work anyway.
So Capel's stunningly-quick fall from grace might play out another Sooner basketball season. That wouldn't please some in the OU administration, and I don't know how it could please the hearty fans who darken the door at Lloyd Noble Center.
Capel's fifth Sooner team doesn't stink as bad as we thought it did, but OU is 9-9 overall, 1-3 in the Big 12 and headed for no more than two or three additional victories. The Sooners beat Texas Tech the other night and might beat Colorado on Saturday. But even a repeat of last season's 13-18, 4-12 finish seems optimistic.
The OU-Tech game was one of the worst Big 12 games I've ever seen in terms of team quality. Of course, we've been spoiled around here. Sooners nor Cowboys have much of a history of bad hoops; this level of play is startling to see live.
“I believe in me,” Capel said the other night when I asked if he was confident the Sooners could build off beating Tech. “I believe in us. I believe in what we're teaching. If they learn to do things the right way, I'm confident. I'm always confident.”
I believe him. But is anyone else confident in Capel? Why would anyone be?
A coach on this level is paid a lot of money and asked to do four things: win ballgames, fill the seats, graduate as many players as possible and keep NCAA investigators as far from campus as possible.
Capel is 0-for-4.
* The Sooners are headed for their second straight dismal Big 12 finish. The glory days of Blake Griffin seem long ago and far away.
* Lloyd Noble Center has been half full, at best, for most games, though considering the product, you have to salute Sooner fans. The question is not, where is everyone? The question is, why are you here?
* Capel's retention is not good. Some have said OU's Academic Progress Rate (the NCAA's retention formula) would take a hit if it changes coaches. As opposed to already?
Before the current collection of newcomers, Capel had handed 18 scholarships at OU. Ten of those 18 players left the squad before their eligibility expired; two of the nine recruits Capel brought in this season already have left.
Griffin and Willie Warren leaving for the NBA, you can live with. But 50 percent retention on non-NBA players, you can't.
* The NCAA investigation into alleged payments to ex-Sooner Tiny Gallon continues. Former OU assistant Oronde Taliaferro exchanged 66 calls or texts with a Tampa, Fla., man who reportedly wired $3,000 into Gallon's bank account.
Some on campus say nothing is coming of the investigation. Others on campus say sanctions are a certainty.
I don't know what will happen, but this hangs harrowingly over Capel. He recruited Gallon and he hired Taliaferro. You can't run from that.
Capel obviously can coach basketball. He can recruit big-time players, presently company excluded.
But more and more, that 2009 Elite Eight pinnacle seems built on Blake Griffin's hops and Taylor Griffin's leadership. The evidence is thin that Capel can maintain a top-level program. His OU future might hinge on his bosses' desire to be hassle-free.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.