Oklahoma Basketball: Jeff Capel Should Hire Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Coach

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Oklahoma Basketball: Jeff Capel Should Hire Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Coach
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Oklahoma University basketball coach Jeff Capel should give Kareem Abdul Jabbar a shot as assistant.

Okay, I know you're saying, "Silliman, you've had a lot of crazy ideas, but this one is certifiable."

To which I say most people liked my idea of Memphis and Sacramento switching team names, just not the owners. However, this one could be a win-win for both parties. 

And then you'll say, "Why? Neither Capel nor Jabbar are thinking this way. There's little or no chance they'll get together."

And I'll say they should. Capel needs a save—a big save. He's down 8-5 in the ninth. He needs a grand slam that's also a slam-dunk. Who better to deliver this than the greatest center to ever play the game?

On the other hand, Kareem needs to show he can coach in college, not just be a position coach on the Lakers, if he ever wants to be a head coach. And believe me, he wants to be a head coach.

Kareem needs to coach at a place where, as an assistant, he can get his own radio show. He needs an opportunity to show he can deal with the media. He needs to show he can recruit. He needs to show he's a changed person, personality-wise. To be a head coach in college or the pros, he needs an opportunity to do the things head coaches do.

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And then you'll say, "But why Oklahoma? He's been there. He coached a USBL team, the Oklahoma Storm, and led them to a league championship and he made few friends with the media. He came off as surly and standoffish. The Oklahoma media don't care for him."

Yes, that is Kareem, the same guy who refused to give an autograph to Magic Johnson when Magic was a young ball boy. If Kareem wants to be a head coach he has to go through a personality change. He has to loosen up. He has to trust the people he comes in contact with.

I think he could learn a lot by associating with Jeff Capel for a few years. Maybe enough to land a head-coaching job.

But then you'll say, "Hey, right now, he's working under the most successful pro coach of all time. Won't that propel him?"

I say no because the Lakers aren't giving him game-planning or offensive coordinator type responsibilities. As a position coach he's concentrating on Andrew Bynum. Very few position coaches have made it to head coach in the NBA. Jabbar needs to be working with a coach closer to his personality level.

Back to Jeff Capel: smart, well read, speaks in a monotone, measures his words very carefully. A young coach with some successes and some fallbacks. But I think their personalities will mesh. It's possible and worth a risk that Jeff can benefit from Kareem's wisdom and basketball savvy while Capel can help draw Kareem out of his shell.

Jabbar can mentor big men, while Capel's expertise is with backcourt guys. They can mutually coexist to the benefit of both parties. 

With a little personality change, Abdul-Jabbar could be a dynamite recruiter. You know how some recruiters walk into a home and maybe bring a championship ring to show off to impress a young recruit? What if you walked in and only the thumb on one hand was bare?

What if you walked in as the greatest scorer in NBA history? What if you walked in as a six-time NBA Most Valuable Player? Do you think a young recruit might listen up? What if you said you could teach some moves gained in 28 years of playing experience? Do you think...?

So then you're saying, "Silliman, if Abdul-Jabbar is willing to be an assistant coach, why leave California? Why not hook up with Ben Howland at his old school, UCLA?"

Two reasons: 1) Howland has a strong, set staff including Scott Garson, who coached Andrew Bogut at Utah. Plus most of Howland's staff are proven recruiters. It'd be more of a risk for Howland especially if there was friction. And 2) I don't think Howland's personality would mesh with Abdul-Jabbar's.

Plus we don't think he'd want to go to a school competing with UCLA so that may eliminate most West Coast schools. 

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But then again, why Oklahoma, besides the opportunity to be a high-profile assistant, to have his own coach radio show, his own jazz show and to work with a young coach with an understanding personality? 

Glad you asked. Again, two more reasons: 1) Kareem suffers from a chronic myeloid leukemia, which is managed by oral medication and monitored by specialists. The OU Cancer center and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation are doing heavy research with teams of specialists on this and other forms of leukemia. There could be mutual benefits. 

And 2) His previous and only head-coaching experience at a professional level dealt with the Oklahoma City media. At that time, as a head coach, he prepared his team well but failed in interactions with media and the public. His reticence and surliness detracted from what should have been a beneficial experience.

And that's one of the main reasons OU makes sense. If it sounds plausible to work for Jeff Capel for two or three years; if Jeff will delegate responsibilities, give him a radio show and the tools to make him attractive as a head coach, and if he can help him develop a head coach personality then Abdul-Jabbar can deal with the media.

And where best to prove he's changed? Where best to have media people testify that he has changed than in a market where he once failed? It's a case of getting back on the bike, jumping back on the horse that threw you, and dealing with the OKC media.

Okay, it's a crazy, risky idea. Capel needs to take the risk. So does Jabbar.

It might work. Believe me, I hang around guys with much crazier ideas. My buddy Mike, when the "Pet Rock" phase was around, invested his money in a "pet stick" idea. Didn't fly. Crazy, right. 

However, Mike still has his pet stick. He calls the pet stick "Jerry." Guess what? Everybody loves Mike's pet stick, Jerry. Soon, everyone will love my Capel and Kareem idea.

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