Only a little over 72 hours after the firing of former head coach Brian Gregory was announced on Friday, a leading candidate has surfaced in Georgia Tech's coaching search, per Zach Klein of WSB-TV.
NCAA sources tell me Duke assistant Jeff Capel as emerged as #GaTech #1 candidate to replace Brian Gregory https://t.co/VG6PyZ9kYw— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) March 28, 2016
Capel's name is an interesting one, being a former head coach but an assistant to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski for the last several years after playing for him in college. Capel began his coaching career as an assistant at Old Dominion before joining VCU as an assistant, eventually being promoted to head coach there.
From 2002-2006, his teams at VCU went 79-41 (.658) overall and 50-22 (.694) in conference play, including a conference championship (and a pair of second-place finishes), an NCAA Tournament appearance and an NIT berth. (It's worth noting here, too, that the four seasons following Capel's departure saw VCU win three straight conference championships, make two NCAA Tournament appearances.) Needless to say, Capel elevated the Rams' basketball program from where the prior regime left it, when the previous coach spent four years there with no postseason appearances and a record that was only marginally better than .500.
Capel moved on to Oklahoma, where his first three seasons saw the Sooners go a combined 69-33 (.676). Perhaps the most famous player that he recruited and coached was Blake Griffin, who led the team to a 30-6 (13-3) finish in 2008-2009, culminating in an Elite Eight loss to eventual champions North Carolina.
Even after that hot start, Capel finished his tenure at Oklahoma with a 96-69 (.581) overall and 39-43 (.476) conference record, not including the 13 victories his team was required to vacate, including 6 Big XII victories. Capel was fired after the 2010-2011 season, shortly after one of his assistants was found to be culpable for some impermissible benefits being provided to one of the Sooners' star players. The resulting violations resulted in the vacation of wins as listed above, and likely played a major role in Capel's firing, even though he personally was not implicated in those violations.
After being booted from Norman, Capel returned to his roots and joined the staff under Krzyzewski in 2011, where he has been an assistant ever since. In February, it was actually a game at Georgia Tech when Capel had to serve as head coach while Krzyzewski remained in Durham with an illness. (Duke won, 80-71.)
Capel is widely regarded as a strong recruiter, and has done well in that realm at each of his coaching stops. He also had good success as a head coach at VCU and in his first three years at Oklahoma. The downside to Capel as a candidate is obviously the suspicion surrounding those sanctions (although, again, he was said not to be involved), as well as his Sooner teams' struggles in his final two years being a pretty big disappointment. In addition, there's a widely-held theory that Capel is the long-term replacement for Coach K in Durham, and even if he does take a different job, that he would return to take that position as soon as it opens up -- thus presenting a certain level of risk in his hire.
We'll keep you updated as more information becomes available regarding Capel and other candidates.