Time will tell if Jeff Capel is successful at Pitt. But at least he’s gotten off to a better public-relations start than his predecessor.
Capel invoked his Steelers fandom — a sure bet to win over local fans — in his first public words Tuesday as Pitt announced it had hired the former Duke player and longtime assistant as its next basketball coach. Capel, who has nine years of head coaching experience at VCU and Oklahoma, will be formally introduced at a noon news conference Wednesday.
“Pitt has a great tradition of success and I look forward to putting together a staff and team that will enable us to build on that tradition,” Capel said in a school-issued release. “As a lifelong Steelers fan, I know Pittsburgh as the ‘City of Champions,’ and our goal from day one will be to recruit, coach and develop champions on the court, in the classroom and in the community.”
The deal is for seven years, according to 247Sports.com. Capel replaces Kevin Stallings, whom Panthers fans panned almost immediately upon his hire two years ago.
Capel owns a 175-110 record as a head coach with three NCAA Tournament appearances, taking Oklahoma to the Elite Eight in 2009. The past seven years, he’s been the right-hand man and top recruiter for Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, most recently holding the title of associate head coach.
In a statement released Tuesday, Krzyzewski called Capel “one of the most dynamic coaches in the country.”
“He possesses championship-level experience as both a head and assistant coach, as well as distinct knowledge of the (ACC) that will benefit Pitt immediately,” Krzyzewski said.
Capel, 43 years old, was named coach of VCU in 2002 at age 27 — the youngest in the country at the time — and took the Oklahoma job four years later at 31.
His departure from Oklahoma came under the specter of NCAA sanctions levied on the program within months of Capel’s firing in 2011. The NCAA said its findings included unethical conduct by assistant Oronde Taliaferro, extra benefits, preferential treatment and ineligible participation. Capel was not implicated by the NCAA.
After the 2009 Elite Eight appearance and departure of future NBA star Blake Griffin, whom Capel had lured to Oklahoma, the Sooners went 9-23 in the Big 12 during Capel’s final two seasons — officially 5-23 because the 2009-10 victories were vacated by the NCAA.
According to the Pitt release, Capel is responsible for recruiting 19 McDonald’s All Americans to Duke and helped that program sign a top-two national class in each of the past five years.
Duke signed four five-star players for the 2017 recruiting class. Marvin Bagley, Trevon Duval, Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. were ranked among the country’s top 17 players. Recent Duke classes included future NBA players Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker and others.
Counting the unofficial 2018 incoming group, Duke has attracted four five-star recruits in each of its past three recruiting classes.
“He has a tremendous basketball pedigree and a strong track record of recruiting, developing and mentoring high-quality student-athletes,” Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said in a released statement. “His relentless work ethic, passion for the game and clear vision of how to build a program capable of competing at the highest levels in the ACC and on the national stage are impressive.”
Capel takes over a program that lost all 19 of its ACC games last season and went 24-41 (4-32 in conference play) in two seasons under Stallings after longtime coach Jamie Dixon was allowed to leave for his alma mater, TCU.
Nine Pitt players received a release from their scholarships last week in the wake of the Stallings’ firing and their unhappiness with that decision. None signed with any other program; it is fairly routine for players to explore their options after a coaching change.
Posts to the Twitter accounts of Pitt starters Jared Wilson-Frame and Shamiel Stevenson suggest they will stay. Each also retweeted messages announcing the Capel hire.

Capel’s hiring comes after a search of almost three weeks. Pitt was connected to several candidates, most notably former Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley. Hurley turned down a reportedly more lucrative offer from Pitt to coach at Connecticut.
Although Pitt made the NCAA tournament in 13 of the 15 seasons before Dixon’s departure, the Panthers have trended downward since moving from the Big East to the ACC in 2013. They did not post a winning conference record since that 2013-14 debut ACC season after going over .500 in 11 of their final 12 Big East seasons.
With four years of playing and eight years of coaching in the ACC, Capel could help Pitt adjust to its conference. Other than his stint at Oklahoma, Capel has lived, played and coached in the Mid-Atlantic region his entire life.
Capel’s father, the late Jeff II, was a college head coach for 12 years in the region and gave Capel III his first coaching job as a 25-year-old assistant at Old Dominion in 2000.
“My lifelong journey around the game of basketball has taught me to surround yourself with great people that you believe in,” Capel said in the Pitt release. “My meetings with Director of Athletics Heather Lyke and Chancellor (Patrick) Gallagher made a huge impact in the decision process. I was thoroughly impressed with their vision for the University of Pittsburgh, the athletic department and our program.”
The 1993 North Carolina High School Player of the Year after leading Fayetteville South View to a 31-1 record and a state championship, Capel made an immediate impact at Duke and was a four-year starter for the Blue Devils, leading the team to 83 wins and a trip to the 1994 national championship game.
A two-year captain, he graduated among Duke’s career leaders in minutes played, 3-pointers made, 3-point percentage and assists.
“The values I have learned from Coach K, his family and his teams will continue to have a significant impact on my career as I look to build on a great tradition here at Pitt,” Capel said.
Jerry DiPaola and Chris Adamski are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach them at jdipaola@tribweb.com and cadamski@tribweb.com.
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Timeline: Tracking the career of new Pitt basketball coach Jeff Capel
1993: Capel was named the 1993 North Carolina High School Player of the Year after leading Fayetteville South View to a 31-1 record and state …

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Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel sits next to head coach Mike Krzyzewski during a game against Iona at PPG Paints Arena March 2018.

Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel argues with an official during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wake Forest in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Duke won 89-71. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Gerry Broome/AP
Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel directs the team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wake Forest in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.

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Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski (left) and associate head coach Jeff Capel during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Boston College Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Boston.

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