Pitt coach Jeff Capel once told he’d be ‘crazy’ to become a coach
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Pitt first-year coach Jeff Capel III said his first thought about becoming a coach came when his playing days were winding down two decades ago. No less a coaching authority than Capel’s father told him he was crazy.
Capel’s dad, Jeff Capel II, was a longtime coach at Old Dominion.
Capel said his father “told me I was crazy.” He added his dad told him, “you should go to law school or something else.”
The choice does not seem so crazy now.
Capel was coach at VCU and Oklahoma. He also was an assistant at Duke from 2011-18 before taking over the Panthers.
In Capel’s first season with the Panthers, he can expect to see many ACC teams taking flight from the wing this season, where many of the league’s best players can be found.
From top contenders like Duke and North Carolina and throughout the entire league, there’s a glut of talented players comfortable playing outside that are expected to light up the ACC this season.
Ty Battle, the 6-foot-7 Syracuse junior who averaged 19 points a game last year, is anxious to up his game after passing on the NBA for another college year. He figures to make the all-ACC preseason team when it’s announced Thursday, a list that should include plenty of guards and small forwards ready to make an impact.
The list of talented perimeter players includes:
• The Blue Devils’ trio of mid-range freshmen -- all among the top 10 college prospects in last year’s recruiting cycle, 6-8 Cam Reddish, 6-7 R.J. Barrett and 6-7 Zion Williamson.
• The Tar Heels combo guards, former Pitt wing 6-9 Cam Johnson and 6-4 Kenny Williams and 6-8 forward Luke Maye.
• Defending ACC champion Virginia features a pair of double-digit scorers, 6-2 Kyle Guy and 6-5 Ty Jerome.
And that doesn’t include perhaps the ACC’s most experienced backcourt in Clemson seniors Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell, who combined to average 28 points a game last year.
“It’s been like that in the ACC ever since I transferred in from Vanderbilt” in 2015, Mitchell said. “At the guard position, it’s a battle every night.”
Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner shook his head and laughed when asked about the ACC’s premiere players on the perimeter.
“It’s a matchup nightmare,” he said.
Duke’s three young players could soon turn ruin the title dreams of all other ACC contenders.
“You lose someone like (former Duke center) Marvin Bagley and your wing play goes up,” Virginia’s Guy said.
Especially with the three forwards Duke brought in this season.
Barrett was rated the game’s No. 1 prospect who led the Blue Devils by averaging 30.7 points and five assists in their three-game summertime tour of Canada. Williamson was the No. 2 prospect and McDonald’s All-American whose high-flying dunks at Spartanburg Day School were a staple of sports highlight shows. Reddish, another McDonald’s All-American, was rated the third overall college prospect.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got everyone’s attention when he said Williamson was the “most talented athlete” he’d ever coached at the school.
North Carolina and Virginia counter Duke’s youngsters with experience.
The Tar Heels have Williams, who had a breakout season in averaging 11.4 points last season. Maye and Johnson looked as comfortable at times playing from the outside as going down low, finishing third and fourth on the team in 3-pointers a year ago. Maye hit 50 threes and Johnson 47.
Guy, the ACC Tournament’s MVP last season, led Virginia with 14.1 points a game and 83 3-pointers. Jerome led the Cavaliers in assists and averaged 10.6 points a game.
Guy knew entering the season that Duke’s young players would gain most of the headlines, even with Virginia going 17-1 and winning both the regular-season and conference titles.
And he’s OK with that.
“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder since sixth grade,” Guy said. “I don’t pass the eye test, so I’m used to it.”
Boston College guard Ky Bowman, a junior guard, was second on the team with at 17.7 points a game. He’s ready to up his play with former teammate and Eagles top scorer from a year ago Jerome Robinson gone.
He’s also ready to match up with the rest of the ACC’s top-notch perimeter players.
“Every night somebody’s always coming out there to give you their best who’s being compared to you,” he said. “That’s one thing I love.”