Oklahoma basketball coach Jeff Capel was a guest Thursday on ESPN’s PTI, probably my favorite TV show. Capel was asked whether there is an East Coast bias, if Blake Griffin is the player of the year, how it feels to be in the shadow of OU football and how it feels to hit a big shot in a big college basketball game.
I thought the interview was interesting and asked Oklahoman staffer Josh Jefferson to listen to it on ESPN’s Podcenter and transcribe it. Maybe one reason I liked the interview so much was because it was clear to me that host Tony Kornheiser, guest host Dan LeBatard and one of their producers had read Berry Tramel and John Helsley’s excellent package on Capel that appear in The Oklahoman’s SportsMonday editions and on NewsOK.
Now, here’s a transcript of Capel’s appearance on ESPN’s PTI:
Tony Kornheiser: Well everyone is talking about UConn and North Carolina, and by everyone I mean me and LeBatard. Oklahoma is a very quiet 24-1. I welcome in the coach of the Sooners and a Dukie, you can’t escape him, baby, Jeff Capel. Jeff, we have read that you have used the lack of respect rant. But you went to Duke, your brother Jason went to North Carolina, so you must understand why those schools get more attention than your school now, right?
Jeff Capel: Oh absolutely, definitely, I mean you’re talking about the, you know probably the two premier basketball programs in the country so I certainly understand that part of it. You know, it’s interesting. I grew up on the East Coast, grew up in North Carolina, and being out here for three years I definitely understand now why some of the people out here feel that there’s a certain East Coast bias, especially with basketball. I think it’s more so, even here… when it comes to football, but especially when it comes to basketball. Probably is a little bit more biased from the East Coast.
LeBatard: Is there any part of you that prefers being second even on your own campus, that you like that you can be in the shadows and insanity of your football team?
Capel: I love it. I absolutely love it. Number one, I’m a huge football fan, and to be at the premier football program in the country. And then to have a chance to have a relationship like I have with Bob Stoops. I mean football’s the front door of everything we do and because of that and because of how great our football program is it gives all of us incredible resources and I certainly love that.
Kornheiser: Premier football program? People in Florida and USC are going to have something to say about that. Blake Griffin is getting some attention as the player of the year, but not like Hansbrough not like Stephen Curry. Do you think that your kid is clearly the best player in the country?
Capel: Well I’m biased. I definitely think so, Tony. If you look at the impact that he’s had on our program, our team, everything we do revolves around him. If you look at the numbers he’s putting up, and he’s doing that, Tony, against double and triple teams every night. If you look at the blocked shots, obviously the rebounds, if you look at the assists, if you look at the free throw attempts, I mean everything, and the fact the we’re 24-1 and that we’re No. 2 in country. But there’s still a lot of season left and there’s some awfully good players, I mean you mentioned those two, I would I would definitely have to put DeJuan Blair (of Pittsburgh) into the mix, you certainly have to put (Hasheem) Thabeet from UConn, his offensive numbers maybe aren’t as impressive but defensively there’s nobody like him in our game. I think you have to put Jody Meeks (of Kentucky) a little bit into that mix. I think there’s some guys that are definitely deserving, but I think our kid, I think Blake has separated himself a little bit from the rest of the guys.
Kornheiser: Anybody in the world you’d trade Blake Griffin for?
Capel: LeBron, maybe (laughing). No one in college, absolutely not.
LeBatard: Gary Williams and Bruce Pearl sweat through their suits. You seem like a very calm coach, are you faking it? Are you secretly anxiety soaked?
Capel: Well I’m secretly nervous. I’m paranoid before the games, hoping that we’ve prepared our team enough and that we’re ready. During the games, you know it’s it’s funny because during the game I feel a sense of calm, and certainly I’ve had more reason to be that way this year, because of our record and because of the guys that we have. I am nervous, but I don’t want my guys to see me nervous. I don’t want to see me… I don’t want them to see me panicking, because to me if they see that that gives them a reason or maybe an excuse to feel the same way, so I want them to look at me and see a lot of confidence and to see someone that’s calm and sort of looks like you have everything under control.
Kornheiser: We’ll get you out of here on this: Fourteen years ago you hit a shot against North Carolina to send the game into double overtime and you said that as much as you love coaching and again, coaching is in your blood, you’re the son of a coach, as much as you love coaching, that moment is why there’s nothing like being a player. Could you explain what you mean by that?
Capel: Well there’s nothing like it, being able to make a crowd go crazy because of something you do, whether it’s a shot, whether it’s a pass, whether it’s a dunk, whether it’s a block… I mean there’s nothing like that feeling, being a part, you know, being in that locker room after a win, after a practice, you know just kind of jiving around with your teammates. There’s nothing like it as a coach. You still feel a part of a team but it’s different from being in that locker room. As a coach one of the things I do now is, is love to see our guys make those plays, but there’s nothing like the feeling of being able to, whether it’s for a minute, an hour, two hours, to make people forget about what’s going on in their lives and to lose themself into that moment, and I’m sure everyone that’s played the game and they’ve retired or they’ve moved on to something else, they’ll tell you the same thing: That there’s nothing like playing in the camaraderie and everything that goes along with it.
Kornheiser: LeBatard of course will never have that feeling. Thank you for joining us, Jeff and good luck the rest of the way.
Capel: Appreciate it guys, thanks.