Although he’s thousands of miles away Jeff Capel says he’s at home as he takes the court in Anaheim.
The 41 year old is in his fifth season at his alma mater, and not a day passes when he doesn’t take something away from his former coach turned boss, Mike Kryzyzewski.
“Obviously Duke is my alma mater,” Capel said. “I get a chance to work with and learn from coach. There’s no better person to learn from. I was an assistant for two years before I became the head coach. When I became the head coach at VCU I just kind of learned a lot on the job. It’s been great for me. It’s been a tremendous experience for me having an opportunity to learn from him.”
Capel spent five season at OU, and some ties to his Sooner roots won’t be broken anytime soon.
“Obviously I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to coach in the Big 12 and at a high major place,” Capel said. “I have some relationships there with the players that I coached, and a few people that I met there that will be forever, and I’m eternally grateful for them.”
Blake Griffin, Capel’s prized pupil from Norman, has morphed from OU high flyer to a five time NBA all star.
None of the player of the year’s accomplishment’s surprise Jeff.
“The first time I saw him I knew he had a chance to be a special player, and he’s certainly become that,” Capel said. “I think he’s one of the best player’s in the world right now. It’s interesting, he’s been hurt for a while, so it’s kind of out of sight out of mind. But, he’s still one of the best player’s in the world. He’s definitely one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
Speaking of number one picks.
Capel helped steer fellow Eastern North Carolinian Brandon Ingram to Duke.
Ingram, some expert’s projected number one overall pick, is the latest in line of Duke star’s Capel has helped.
“He’s meant a lot," Ingram said. “He recruited me hard, and that just showed he believed in me when I came here. He’s worked out with me hard. Doing extra work after practice, or anything like that. I think that’s helped me a lot. Helped me develop my confidence. He’s been a very good factor of why I’ve been playing so well.”
“Just being able to connect,” Capel said. “With family, with kids and maybe being able to relate to them a little bit. I’ve been fortunate at Duke that I’m at an amazing place. I work for an amazing man. So we have an amazing product to sell.”
In a climb similar to the rest of his career, Jeff Capel has quickly become Coach K’s top assistant.
The former Blue Devil captain has already experienced some coaching success in Durham as well.
Earlier this season when Mike Krzyzewski was sick, Capel stepped in and led Duke to an ACC win at Georgia Tech.
As for a more permanent position, Capel told me he definitely wants to be a head coach again.
“I feel like I’ll have that opportunity at some point, and I think I’ll be better,” Capel said. “I thought I was a good head coach before. I had two bad years, and that was my responsibility, but I feel like I’ve grown from that. I will make sure the next time that it’s the right situation for me and my family. That’s really, really important to me, and for me. It has to be the perfect situation because I’m in such a great situation right now."