Former Oklahoma Sooners basketball coach Jeff Capel is headed back to North Carolina to serve as an assistant coach under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. And hours after his hiring was announced, the former Duke point guard and Fayetteville, N.C., prep star gave this interview to his hometown newspaper.
Among Capel’s comments:
– He compared the troubles with his program at Oklahoma to being “hit with a tornado.”
– He said his firing was particularly difficult on his wife, who continued to teach at the OU law school after his dismissal.
– And he said there’s plenty he’d like to say — but can’t — about the current NCAA investigation into Oklahoma basketball:
Some exerpts of the interview with Fayetteville Observer sports writer Dan Wiederer:
On how the last five years were like being “hit with a tornado”:
“Growing up in North Carolina, we had hurricanes and you could always track a hurricane. You could spot where the eye was forming and see where it was headed and you could track it. But for me, the situation in Oklahoma over the past five years, was like a tornado. You can’t track it. That’s what I felt like happened. We got hit with a tornado. And I know we were on track to recovering from it and being better and being stronger than ever. I just didn’t get enough time. But I really believe it was a tornado of things that we just didn’t foresee coming. And one of the things that was kind of a mantra with the last team I coached at Oklahoma was to focus on moving forward and staying positive. I commend our guys for their focus and for giving me everything in that regard. There were just some things that we couldn’t help.”
On how he felt after being fired at OU:
“You feel disappointment for the fans. You have the feeling that you let people down. That was not easy. It was frustrating. It was a lot of different things. But I think it’s made me a better coach. It’s helped me grow. And for that I’m happy. I’ve been asked frequently, ‘Are you bitter about the way it ended?’ I’m not bitter. I’m better. I’m better for having gone through it all.”
On being associated with an NCAA investigation:
“I think anyone who goes through something like that is frustrated by it. Incredibly frustrated. You need time to figure out what happened. But again, this is where I grew in learning to control what you can control. Because with that situation, especially initially, there were so many things being said about you and you’re hearing rumors that you know are not true. And everyone now, it’s all about speculation with a lot of what’s written. And some of it, you know is not true. But you can’t say anything. You can’t say anything. Even now, I can’t say all of the things that I really want to say because of the investigation. So yeah, that’s very frustrating.”
On the impact the firing had on his family:
“The first thing for me was making sure my family was OK. Anyone that goes through a firing like this, it’s traumatic for everyone. Your family, your staff. Most important to me was making sure my wife and daughters were OK. My wife teaches at the law school at OU. And you can imagine how difficult that was for her. She had to go back and teach on campus for six weeks after that. So I wanted to make sure she was OK. I wanted to make sure the players were OK. I wanted to make sure my coaching staff and their families were going to be OK. When someone gets fired, the impact reaches so far. And I’m a person who cares. That’s who I am.”
On his immediate plans after being fired and how they changed:
“My initial feeling was that I was going to be out of coaching for at least a year. I had thought about trying to maybe do some TV and had talked to some people who were generous enough to listen and to contemplate giving me an opportunity. But when this situation came up, it was just too good to pass up.”