Duke Blue Devils Basketball: 8 Reasons Jeff Capel Could Replace Coach K

Jason HeimCorrespondent IMay 31, 2011

Duke Blue Devils Basketball: 8 Reasons Jeff Capel Could Replace Coach K

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    Jeff Capel is the newest in the established line of former Duke Blue Devil players to join the coaching stable of the legendary Mike Krzyzewski

    After being fired following five seasons at Oklahoma, Capel returns to Durham as Coach K's assistant, joining former players Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins. 

    One thing separates Capel from his fellow assistants, and that is Division 1 head coaching experience. Given that experience, among other reasons, Capel is the likely favorite to succeed Coach K whenever the head man decides to retire.

    Nobody is pushing you out, Coach K, let's be clear about that. But when you do decide to go, here are the reasons Jeff Capel could be your successor. 

Head Coaching Experience

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    Jeff Capel is the only assistant on Duke's bench who has head coaching experience.

    Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski have never ventured out from under Coach K's wing to take their own gigs, so they remain unproven. For all we know, they could be the guys who make sure everybody gets on the bus to games and has the right uniform on. Coach K has owned the Duke bench for 31 years, and probably doesn't need a whole lot of tactical help from his assistants, which means those assistants don't have the training they need to handle the job when it opens up.

    Capel comes in with a 175-110 career record and three NCAA Tournament appearances, which is extensive compared to his new colleagues. He's likely to provide Coach K with a useful voice on the bench.

    If Krzyzewski ever relinquishes his post, Capel should be the logical pick to replace him internally. 


Wojo Won't Know What to Do Without Mike Krzyzewski

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    There's no debate that Steve Wojciechowski idolizes Mike Krzyzewski. He did as a player, and he does as his assistant. He has displayed passion and dedication to the program ever since joining the staff in 1999. 

    Because of this, he's become a fixture on the Duke sideline, but never independent of Krzyzewski's influence or orders.

    Wojo has been under the tutelage of his mentor for so long as a coach and player, that I'm skeptical he could take over the program and make it his own. Even though he is as familiar with Duke basketball as any single person outside of Krzyzewski himself, Wojo might never be the coach that Duke needs him to be without his teacher.   

Chris Collins Couldn't Be Hired over Wojo, Could He?

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    If Duke was looking to replace Coach K internally, and the candidates were Wojo and Chris Collins, would anybody have confidence that Collins would get the job before Wojo all things being equal?

    Collins' Duke résumé as both coach and player are inferior to Wojciechowski's. Wojo was the more celebrated and recognized player, and has been on the Duke coaching staff longer.

    Since neither coach is given all that much responsibility under the head man, it's hard to separate them on coaching potential, aptitude or accolade.

    If that truly is the case and it remains as such and neither coach seems more deserving than the other, wouldn't Wojo, the more well-known, get the job as an iconic Duke figure?

    As long as Wojo is around, I don't think Chris Collins has a shot at succeeding Krzyzewski.  

Duke Assistants Eventually Get Head Coaching Jobs, Most of Them Anyway

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    The above photo is of Johnny Dawkins, Stanford Head Coach and former Duke assistant from 1998-2008. 

    Dawkins, among several other current and former head coaches, is a part of the famed Mike Krzyzewski coaching tree. Others include Quin Snyder, Tommy Amaker, Mike Brey, Mike Dement and David Henderson.

    No former assistant on that list had to wait longer than Dawkins' 11 seasons to land a head coaching job.

    Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski are at 12 and 13 years, respectively, on the Duke bench. One has to wonder whether they are destined to be career Duke assistants, or whether they're perceived around the country as competent head coach candidates.

    Here's what I'm thinking: if these two can't draw any interest for head coach vacancies elsewhere, how in the world can we expect them to jump into the head job at a hallowed program like Duke without previous experience? That's wishful thinking.

    Maybe they've been offered jobs and turned them down to stay in the cushy jobs they have. Maybe they'd rather be a Duke assistant than a head coach at a lesser program, I don't know.

    However, I've never heard of a coach being content with an assistant role for his entire career. Every coach dreams of running his own program and Collins and Wojo are likely no different.

Recruits Will Want to Play for Jeff Capel More

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    Jeff Capel has a pretty impressive résumé for a coach of 36 years old.

    He's advanced as far as the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, coached great players like Blake Griffin, struggled for seasons at a time and developed a recruiting style.

    The hire of Capel might be Duke's looking ahead toward Krzyzewski's retirement. They want one of their own, a program loyalist, who played for Coach K.

    Having head coaching experience helps too.

    In light of his experience, recruits are much more likely to recognize him and know that he coached Oklahoma and Virginia Commonwealth to the Tournament than his fellow assistants. If you ask a recruit if they'd rather play for Steve Wojciechowski or Jeff Capel, most would likely choose Capel.

    Capel knows how to run a recruiting operation. Wojo and Collins know how to take recruiting orders. There's a big difference, one that takes several years to navigate as a first time head coach.

    Duke is a high-profile program that would take a major image hit if it had a few bad years in the aftermath of Coach K's retirement. With Capel, that is much less likely to happen, because he has landed huge recruits like Griffin. 

Coach K Might Have Chosen His Successor in Jeff Capel

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    My guess is that Coach K had quite a bit of input on the hiring of Jeff Capel as his assistant.

    What are the chances that he was filling the position with his preferred successor?

    If Duke is only going to hire a new head coach with previous experience, there wouldn't be a better situation to draw from than hiring a current assistant that joined in that capacity after having been a head coach for an extended tenure.

    This way, Duke gets the best of both worlds: they get to hire from within the Blue Devil family, a player no less, and they get someone with prior head coaching work.

    Now, K can groom and prune Capel as he wishes, show him the ropes and stay until he knows that his guy is absolutely ready to take over.

    Could this potentially be what Krzyzewski is doing right now at age 64 and nearing retirement? 

Jeff Capel Has a Reputation to Restore

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    There's been a lot of glorification of Jeff Capel in this slideshow, and rightly so.

    However, at risk of glossing over his recent struggles, some things need to be brought to light. It's important to recognize that Capel just got fired from his job at Oklahoma because the Sooners just finished a 27-36 two-year run.

    Capel tallied a losing record in Big 12 play at 37-43 over his five years in Norman. He appears to be an adequate coach, and he has experience, but he's still got a lot to prove.

    Capel is damaged goods on the coaching market for at least the next few years. Landing a job as a Duke assistant to learn under Mike Krzyzewski is the best possible outcome for him fresh off a firing.

    He needs time to gather himself, pick his head up and move on from the failure at Oklahoma. Again, there's no better place to do that than where he is now, at Duke.

    Capel's reputation will be restored in time with success on the court and recruiting trail at Duke. If he doesn't get the Duke head coaching job, he'll get another one because the Blue Devil bench is a historically ripe coaching tree.  

Diversity on the Bench Precedes Diversity on the Court

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    Duke basketball is well-known and mocked for being, well, vanilla. There are a lot of white coaches who recruit well from inner cities among African-American players, but Coach K doesn't.

    It's not because K is a bad recruiter; it's because there's a certain kind of player that he likes, and often times, the white players fit the profile that he wants. He always gets the best ones, but they're still white.

    Jeff Capel represents the only hope on the current Duke staff for diversity and a different look in recruiting. Do you want to get more athletic and erase your reputation as the opposite? The black coach is much more likely to get you the black players than Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins.

    Jeff Capel offers recruits a young and relateable coach who has proven his chops as a leader at the highest level.

    Up against the two lifelong assistants who are white just like the last coach, Capel stands as a harbinger of change for Duke recruiting patterns and on-court philosophy.