Jeff Capel III is the primary target to be the new men's basketball coach at Virginia. There, I said it.
Now this may be nothing but blind conjecture at this point, but I'm reading the tea leaves and this is the impression that I get...Capel is Virginia's top target, and they are going to make a run at bringing him back home to the ACC, and they are willing to spend a bit more for Capel than Oklahoma has been paying Capel up to now.
What we do know, so far, is that Virginia hasn't moved very fast in conducting its coaching search since Dave Leitao signed out on March 16. Tubby Smith was the main target in 2005, and Tubby was interested, but Virginia wasn't willing to pay up for a coach of his stature at that time.
There was rampant speculation that Tubby would again be the top target in 2009, but his Minnesota season has been over for a week and not a peep out of Charlottesville or Minneapolis.
Conventional wisdom now is that UVA has its sights focused on a coach whose season has not yet ended.
At this point, there are three coaches still "dancing" who regularly appear in Virginia rumors. Jeff Capel, Sean Miller, and Jay Wright. Arguments can be made for each of these excellent coaches, but Capel is the only one with both strong ties to Virginia and strong ties to the ACC.
Capel's father, Jeff Capel II, was the coach at Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia for a number of years. Capel III himself was an assistant at both Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth before becoming the head coach at VCU.
Altogether, Capel had been a coach in Virginia for seven years before coaching Oklahoma for the past three.
And the Capel coaching record is stellar. He has never had a losing season (knock on wood) in the seven years he has been a head coach. He has taken both VCU and Oklahoma to the NCAA Tournament. He is one win shy of 30 (!) victories for this year's squad at OU. And he has accomplished all this despite having just turned 34 years old in February.
Now, the question posed by Oklahoma fans is, why would Capel even consider leaving OU for Virginia? Call me biased, but I have a number of reasons for you.
A) First there's the second-fiddle status that basketball has at Oklahoma. While basketball has certainly had more success at OU than at where the SEC openings are this year (Georgia, Alabama) it will always be the No. 2 sport at its own school.
It was second-fiddle for the entire winning reign of Billy Tubbs, and it will be second-fiddle for as long as Capel or anyone else is coaching basketball.
Virginia is not a football school, and while not even quite a top basketball school, the opportunity is there for the right coach to make it an amazing basketball program and the "center of the show" in Virginia.
B) The heart of this opportunity is the new basketball facilities in John Paul Jones Arena. The Lloyd Noble Center is fine, but JPJ is truly a basketball paradise. Even the practice courts are nicer than some other ACC schools' game gyms.
While this might not impress someone who spent his playing career in rickety old Cameron Indoor, Capel can certainly appreciate the recruiting possibilities of such a college basketball palace.
C) Capel has coached in the state of Virginia at two different schools so far. As an assistant at Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth, and then as the head man at VCU. The third time is the charm, and Virginia wants him back!
D) Capel is an ACC guy at heart. When he decided to go into coaching, the Big XII probably wasn't where he saw himself leaving his mark. It's the ACC where he might have thought he'd always end up...it's where, in a perfect world, he'd choose to build up his own program.
The time is now, for both Virginia and Capel. The man is a proven winner at this point, and Virginia has all the facilities and infrastructure in place to be one of the great basketball schools...it just needs a coach to come in and start a consistent winning tradition. It needs Jeff Capel.
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