CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A lot has changed since new Pitt head coach Jeff Capel was in charge of a college basketball program
Capel was a head coach at VCU from 2002 to 2006 and at Oklahoma from 2006 to 2011. In the last seven seasons, he was an assistant at Duke, where he got an up close and person view of one of the things he think is the biggest changes to the way a collegiate head coach needs to go about his business: social media.
“Social media is huge,” Capel said. “I think that I learned to appreciate that during my time at Duke. I think the guys there Dave Bradley and his team, they do the best job. I didn’t really understand it until I got there and really kind of watched them and then I would ask questions about it. I saw the impact that it had on the recruiting at Duke and most importantly, the impact that it had on the young men, when I was there, that we were recruiting, how into it they were.”
What he saw was the power of a brand, how carefully it needs to be cultivated and how much young people are in tune with that process. They want to build their brands too, he said, and just like anyone one social media, young basketball players want to build their brand by associating with stronger ones.
“Duke University itself is a brand,” Capel said. “Duke basketball is a brand and Coach K is a brand. So, there, you’re already joining three really well-known, established and big-time brands. So you have a chance to do it there probably like at an Alabama football. Not everywhere can you do it. You’re trying to learn how to do that. It’s very important.”
So when Capel left Duke and took the head coach’s job at Pitt, he wanted to instill that same sense of brand and purpose on social media.
“When I took the job at Pitt and was hiring a staff, we hired a social person to assist us with that to really help us and to help us grow that,” he said. “I’ve seen the impact that it can have.”
So far, one of the big hits of Capel’s tenure on social media has been a tribute video to Mac Miller that has been shared nearly 5,000 times on Twitter.
We came to get down. pic.twitter.com/PkHS5h0n36
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) October 6, 2018
“That was a combination of [director of student-athlete development] Jason Richards on our team and [director of creative content] Cody Isern and [director of media relations] Matt Plizga,” Capel said. “I think all of them worked together. They came to me with the idea that, ‘This is something we think would be really good. Would you be OK with this?’
“So those guys came up with the concept and it was amazing.”
Capel said he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction to the video
“I was,” he said. “I know Mac Miller’s music. I knew he was from Pittsburgh, but I didn’t know the impact that it would have on the city like that and the reaction to it. It was really cool to see people’s reaction to it.”