As Pitt gets ready to take on Northwestern for a second straight year, head coach Jeff Capel prepares to face a longtime friend.
From 1993-96, Capel and Chris Collins, the current Northwestern head coach, shared a backcourt at Duke. The two led the Blue Devils to a Final Four appearance in 1994 and made many long-lasting memories during their time in Durham, North Carolina.
In 2011, the two were reunited when Capel was hired by his former coach Mike Krzyzewski, joining Collins as an assistant coach. From 2011-13, they shared the bench alongside Coach K, leading Duke to 57 wins in two seasons.
Since being hired by Northwestern in 2013, Collins has led the Wildcats to 111 victories, including an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016-17. Last year, he squared off against head coach Capel and Pitt for the first time.
In that 2019 matchup in Fort Myers, the Panthers got the better of the Wildcats, defeating them 72-59 behind a 21-point performance from Justin Champagnie.
This year, Northwestern has gotten off to a 2-0 start, with comfortable victories over Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Chicago State. In those matchups, the Wildcats drained 14 and 11 3-point shots, respectively.
While previewing this first road game of the season for the Panthers, Capel mentioned that facing Collins as an opposing head coach will be difficult.
“It’s difficult from the standpoint that he’s a very, very, very close friend of mine, Capel said. “Our families are very close, and there is a lot of history. He and I went through some amazing things together when we were teammates. We went through success, but we also went through difficulty. We overcame it together, and it’s something that’s bonded us since I entered college as a freshman and he was a sophomore.
Capel later mentioned that although they are so close off the court, last year when they played each other they found out how to ignore that friendship during the game.
“We talk just about every day or every other day, so it is something that is difficult,” Capel said. “But the one thing I found last year when we played during those 40 minutes, I didn’t look down there, he didn’t look down at me, we just coached our teams, and I’m assuming it will be the same thing on Wednesday.”