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Opinion

Vukovcan: Pitt Needs to Give Jeff Capel More Time

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Fans want to watch a winner and hate losing.

There’s nothing wrong with that, because if a team doesn’t have any expectations and doesn’t have fans that are sick of losing, then they really have deeper issues and aren’t much of a team or program.

Fortunately for Pitt, they don’t fall into that category and the fanbase desperately wants Pitt basketball to get back the success of the Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon era, when they were consistently contending for the Big East championships and playing yearly in the NCAA Tournament. March Madness is something Pitt hasn’t been a part of since the 2015 season and that streak is most likely reaching six years following this season.

When you watched your team have a record of 385-134 from 2001 thru 2016, you get used to winning and going 69-97 since that timeframe is totally unacceptable. Pitt fans are sick of losing and want to return to being a factor in college basketball.

Kevin Stallings was only given two years and after having a record of 24-41, he was fired by Heather Lyke and replaced by Jeff Capel.

Panther fans were excited by that hire, considering his background at Duke, and expected the winning ways and high-level recruits to follow him from Durham to Oakland.

Unfortunately for both sides, that hasn’t happened, as Capel has gone 45-56 in 3-plus seasons. With more losing comes more frustration and anger and that is followed by the fan base wanting to see more changes with the program.

The overwhelming opinion is that after four years and very little visible progress, Lyke needs to make a change with the men’s basketball program and find someone to replace Capel.

I’m not one of those people.

Sure, I expected Pitt to be in a better position entering year four of the Capel era and fully realize that he’s made some mistakes, but I also realize how challenging this Pitt job is and some of the unfortunate breaks Capel has been dealt.

I honestly believe that Capel’s biggest “mistake” is the type of recruit he and his staff have been targeting. With Coach K and Duke, Capel was used to recruiting the very best high school players in the country and brought that mentality to Pitt, but it hasn’t worked.

Capel has gotten Pitt in position for elite prospects like Precious Achiuwa, Khadim Sy, Kofi Cockburn, RJ Davis, Puff Johnson, Earl Timberlake, Efton Reid, Judah Mintz, etc. but they always ended up the bridesmaid instead of the bride.

Looking back, despite his reputation as an elite recruiter, attempting to win these recruiting battles wasn’t realistic for a couple big reasons. Because of the previous five seasons, the Pitt program had no national buzz and weren’t viewed as an attractive option because of the losing. Maybe more importantly, unlike many other programs that are suddenly relevant, Pitt isn’t using a “bag man” and the methods many other teams are using to lure recruits. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, Capel isn’t using that method and is just recruiting, which unfortunately, isn’t very successful these days when attempting to land top talent.

The outlook would look a lot different if Pitt still had commitments from four-star and five-star talents Efton Reid, Jalen Hood-Schifino or Judah Mintz. In the case of Reid, that really hurt considering the shady circumstances in which it unfolded.

Looking back and moving forward, until Pitt is in position to legitimately go after this four- and five-star talent, Pitt is better off using the Dixon way of recruiting and going after the talented three-star recruits that can be developed and become three- and four-year program players like Jaron Brown, Julius Page, Nasir Robinson, Ontario Lett, etc.

Bad luck or unfortunate circumstances have also factored into what’s currently happening. Having John Hugley and Nike Sibande for the entire season last year would have no doubt made Pitt better and improved their win total.

That also applies to what’s occurred at the start of this season.

Pitt’s current record of 5-8 would no doubt be a winning one, without loses to The Citadel, UMBC, Monmouth and quite possibly their heartbreaking 1-point losses to Notre Dame, Virginia and Minnesota with Sibande, Ithiel Horton and Jamarius Burton in their lineup all season.

While to some, those may sound like excuses, in Pitt’s current situation it’s reality. Pitt’s roster depth isn’t good enough to absorb the losses of three potential double digit scores.

Despite these roster shortcomings and adversity this season has presented, people that have been paying attention have seen improvement and things to build on for this program. The most encouraging thing I’ve seen is that despite being undermanned, this team is playing hard and buying into what Capel is trying to do to win. Playing defense and trying to muddy things up isn’t attractive to most players these days, but this 2021 Panther team is showing they’re willing to do it and are good at it.

Although everyone at Pitt wants and probably expected more at this point it would be a mistake to start over and fire Jeff Capel.

Capel is a good coach and his track record suggests he’s a good recruiter.  While the fan base doesn’t want to hear this more time is needed.  Building a program from the dead doesn’t happen in a couple years unless you’re willing to get slimy, which Capel clearly isn’t.

Starting over would just be hitting the reset button, which isn’t what is needed. Although it might not be popular, sticking with Capel and letting him continue what he’s started is the smart move.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Richard Lovato
Richard Lovato
8 months ago

Capel is not a good coach. What evidence do you have to the contrary?

Richard Jasko
Richard Jasko
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Lovato

He won at Oklahoma and VCU. With basically a 5 man team he has these guys playing hard and in every game. He can coach. If you watched this team at all this year you can see them getting better. They just do not have any depth.

Joe Cursi
Joe Cursi
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Jasko

And hasn’t won here! Past is irrelevant!

Joe Cursi
Joe Cursi
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Lovato

His actual record!

Kowboygoc
Kowboygoc
8 months ago

Unfortunately we live in a society of immediate gratification which equals NO BAG💰💰 no recruits. It’s sad but the slime rule the world.

Krackerjack Kid
Krackerjack Kid
8 months ago

The article is fine and all, and if that was all there is to the story, then yes, Capel deserves one more year.

Unfortunately, the article did not address the arrests and assaults (in and out of the locker room) that add to the total lack of character that Capel has recruited to this program. We don’t see this issue in any other program at Pitt.

Krackerjack Kid
Krackerjack Kid
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Vukovcan

Point taken. But these were not shoplifting or other minor infractions. These were felonies.

A one-off may be acceptable, occasionally, but I believe we are seeming a pattern of bad behavior here.

Mark Recker
Mark Recker
8 months ago

Hugley was convicted of a misdemeanor. Horton’s case has not been adjudicated yet.

Paul mcgrath
Paul mcgrath
8 months ago

I completely agree with you. I had my doubts about capels coaching ability but he has showed me something this year. This team plays hard and seem to be well coached. I very much enjoy watching this team play. He really needs to make sure all the sophomores stay put and I think they will be a pretty good team next year. At the time nobody really thought that losing Julian champagne was a big deal but if you add him to last years team I think they would have been much better and I also think Justin would be… Read more »

Dave Collins
Dave Collins
8 months ago

He has zero recruits coming in. None from last year and none for this year. What could there possibly be to look forward to?

Terrence
Terrence
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Vukovcan

Where’s your evidence that things will change

Kevin Mccarthy
Kevin Mccarthy
8 months ago

A major concern going forward will be keeping the few good current players. They have to be tired of losing. Several of the better players could transfer out. his team which desperately needs talent could get worse.

Terrence
Terrence
8 months ago

Cmon Mike the guy can’t recruit, I’ll give him the guys are playing hard for him but outside of that there’s nothing to say this program is going to get better

Joe Talarico
Joe Talarico
8 months ago

You have largely hit the nail on the head with one small exception. With the portal being so active, I think that using a scholarship on a a run of the mill 3 star recruit is not the best path. Go for 3 stars with something special to offer and 4 and 5 stars .Fill the holes with proven transfers like Jamarius Burton. Transfers have changed everything. Capel will get the 4 and 5 stars in time. Narduzzi has shown us that a good coach doesn’t turn a failed program around in 3 or 4 years. Capel is a good… Read more »

Terrence
Terrence
8 months ago
Reply to  Joe Talarico

What 4 or 5 star recruit is he going to get do you even follow recruiting do you realize that he hasn’t signed one player for next yrs class yet ,that’s pathetic and what happens when some of this yrs players hit the portal this program is in trouble, go ahead and keep your blinders on no recruits are coming here ,but if you think getting transfers from Detroit mercy,or Albany st are gonna help then I don’t know what to tell you

Grachon Gibson
Grachon Gibson
8 months ago

Solid article, but I dont like the context in which Nasir Robinson, and Ontario Lett were used. Robinson never got better over his 4 years, and Lett was a Juco transfer. So many other players would have worked in that space. Brandin Knight, Sam Young, Chevon Troutman, Aaron Gray, etc.

Pittband
Pittband
8 months ago

There’s a lot of bulls**t being spread around. No Capel hasn’t been as successful recruiting as we hoped. But NO ONE foresaw the creation of the pay for play Bezos high school leagues which target the 4 and 5 star sophomores, juniors and seniors with lots of money (and it’s legal). The trickle down effect is working. If the elite mbb schools can’t compete for the high school superstars, then they are going to get the next best player(s). Capel was blindsided as was everyone else. The team was horrible in November but turned it around in December. The coaching… Read more »

Jp_33
Jp_33
8 months ago

In what world is this guy doing a good job? He has no recruits coming in and will lose any decent player he has to transfer. He has already had more than enough time just to show improvement, let alone win.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
8 months ago

Glad to see improvement in Pitt’s team play.
What I don’t understand is key players transferring out of Pitt. Losing McGowens, Johnson, and Toney has hurt this team. I have never heard an explanation for their leaving that satisfies me. Are we running players out of town?

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
8 months ago

Also Brown wants to play as a grad student, just not here?

Paul mcgrath
Paul mcgrath
8 months ago

Who the hell is brown?

Pittband
Pittband
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul mcgrath

Terrence Brown, and he left because he wasn’t going to play. A freshman, Hughley, was so much better.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
8 months ago
Reply to  Pittband

Terrell Brown, 6’10”, good defense and mid-range jumper.

Last edited 8 months ago by Clark Martineau
Rob Radich
Rob Radich
8 months ago

Outside of the Blake Griffin year, Capel has sucked. These losses are unacceptable, no matter who is out. And what do Hood Schifino and Mintz have no do with the present situation, they’re in High School. And Reid never committed. Seriously man, this is an absurd piece.

Mark Recker
Mark Recker
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

And yet Krackerjack Kid thinks it’s a solid piece. If only we knew what Katman, Jessie Puggle & Justin Dietrich think of this article. C’mon Sturg, unleash all of your multiple personalities.

Narloser
Narloser
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Recker

Have Some Mental Issues Markie??

Mark Recker
Mark Recker
8 months ago
Reply to  Narloser

Nope. Too bad you can’t say the same Sturg.

Pitt Fan in White Oak
Pitt Fan in White Oak
8 months ago

My main issue is that Capel is in Year 4 and only has 9 scholarship players, when the max is 13. This is the most irritated I’ve been about Pitt roster management since Wanny (yes, he was fired at least a year too early) was in year 6 and started a walk-on center. So far, Pitt has been competitive in the ACC games. The players are playing hard and have found ways to stay in games despite their limited offensive firepower (aside from Hugley). However, as they have in Capel’s past 3 seasons, this team- especially with less depth/ scholarship… Read more »

Pittband
Pittband
8 months ago

Jim Morrissey was a walk on center, who started for four years and gets an NFL paycheck.

Eric payne
Eric payne
8 months ago

They said the same. Things about Pat Narduzzi. Just keep the faith. This team plays HARD. Good things will happen.

Cruzer
Cruzer
8 months ago

Are you on crack? The results after 4 years are horrible. More importantly, the trend line is down not up. We have a terrible roster (built by Capel) and zero recruits coming in. Giving more time to a train wreck is monumentally stupid.

Mark Recker
Mark Recker
8 months ago
Reply to  Cruzer

This is comical. When are you going to bring back Smoke & Mirrors Bunda?

Narloser
Narloser
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Recker

When Are You Going To Spit That Out And Get Up Off Your Knees Markie??

Mark Recker
Mark Recker
8 months ago
Reply to  Narloser

Question for you rectum man,why would someone named Narloser be so upset about Bunda? Unless you are the same mentally ill fossil. Sucks to be you.

Gerry
Gerry
8 months ago

Mike is 100% correct in his observations. Who among you that wants him fired could point to anyone better who would come to Pitt? By the way, don’t dream up somebody who is successful elsewhere. Why would they come? Pitt is not going to out spend another program with a top 25 team. If Capel is having trouble recruiting here doesn’t that worry you that the assistant coach from some other school that would take the job would have even more trouble. If you are concerned about a plethora of transfers just wait until Capel is fired and a new… Read more »

Giovanni
Giovanni
8 months ago

I think you nailed it, Mike. Let’s face it, Pitt lost it’s reputation as a serious contender in basketball a while ago. It’s no surprise that 4 and 5-star recruits are jumping off of the hook. Pitt’s reputation must first be rebuilt which will take years (same thing occurred with the football program which appears to finally have gotten over the hump with Narduzzi having experienced the same program rebuilding challenges). The 4-star athletes will follow. These last few games demonstrate that Caple deserves more time to rebuild the program.

Mark Recker
Mark Recker
8 months ago
Reply to  Giovanni

So you agree with Krackerjack but not Cruzer & Terrence? Lol, cucoo for Cocoa Puffs.

John Donnelly
John Donnelly
8 months ago

What bugs me is why so many top players left the team last year—even before the season ended! Even in this age of transferpalooza, that seemed like a red flag. I am willing to be patient with Capel, but as of today I see no reason for optimism. It’ll be a long slog back.

Dukes

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