Capel's journey brings him back against Carolina Print
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Saturday, 28 March 2009 12:49
NCAAB Headline News


 MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -Blake Griffin leaned forward to the microphone to share what Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel - a Duke graduate - had told his Sooners about North Carolina.
``He just talked about if we don't win probably none of us will have scholarships next year,'' Griffin deadpanned.
Capel laughed. Then Griffin fessed up that Capel hadn't said anything about his history with North Carolina when the coach broke in with a warning to be careful.
``People take that stuff for real now,'' Capel said Saturday.
and now as a parent who named his daughter Cameron, just like Duke's gym.
Now 34, Capel has his first chance to take his team to a Final Four in just his third season coaching Oklahoma (30-5) on Sunday in the South Regional final. So naturally, who should be there but North Carolina (31-4), the region's top seed?
Capel said he told someone on his staff back in January they eventually would play North Carolina.
``I didn't know if it would happen in the Final Four, to get to the Final Four, or for a championship, but I just had a feeling that some way we were going to end up playing them. We're excited about it,'' he said. ``I have a lot of respect, so much respect for that program. I grew up in that state. I know all about the history and the tradition.''
North Carolina coach Roy Williams ended his own recruitment of Capel for Kansas once he heard the guard had whittled his choices down to the Tar Heels and Duke.
``He's really done a great, great job, and it's been fun to watch his development,'' Williams said. ``He's very bright. He's very organized. He's very hungry, And he's charismatic. He can get guys to play the way he wants them to play.''
the 2000 Final Four. But Capel decided to play for Duke after deciding he wanted to play for Mike Krzyzewski.
Capel's playing career ended soon after his days at Duke because of a ruptured disc and a stomach disease. Krzyzewski gave him his first job at Duke before Capel's own father, Jeff, hired him as his assistant at Old Dominion. That lasted one year before his father was fired.
Capel wound up at VCU as the third assistant and had never recruited on the road when the athletic director promoted him to the head job.
``I guess I was destined for this,'' he said.
Success followed with an NCAA tournament berth in Capel's second season in 2004. Oklahoma came calling in 2006 wanting help to clean up the mess left by Kelvin Sampson and coach the Sooners through the NCAA sanctions that resulted.
Capel's first challenge was trying to hold onto a recruiting class, but he wound up keeping only Tony Crocker. Now a junior, Crocker scored a career-high 28 points to help the Sooners into their first regional final since 2003. Capel's next coup came when he persuaded Griffin to join his older brother, Taylor, in Norman.
suffered a concussion, keeping him out of most of two games - both losses.
Capel talked with Krzyzewski on Saturday morning, receiving congratulations on his latest win. No scouting advice on playing North Carolina, though. That would break the Atlantic Coast Conference code of not helping outsiders.
``We think we're capable of getting past these guys, but we know it's going to take almost a perfect game from us for that to happen,'' Capel said.
And any possible motivation the current Tar Heels might have from Capel's Duke connection? It doesn't matter to players who were toddlers when Capel played for the Blue Devils.
``But if we win, I think it will be all that much sweeter,'' North Carolina senior guard Danny Green said.
 

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