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Pitt's Jeff Capel talks about coaching in social media world

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, 11:18 a.m.
Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel signals his team as they play against Duquesne during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel signals his team as they play against Duquesne during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pitt coach Jeff Capel on what he tells players: “You guys live in this social media world. That is not reality. That’s fake. This is the reality, and we have to change it.”
Pitt coach Jeff Capel on what he tells players: “You guys live in this social media world. That is not reality. That’s fake. This is the reality, and we have to change it.”
Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel directions his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel directions his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

The problems linked to coach Jeff Capel’s attempt to rebuild Pitt’s basketball program go further than getting 12 shots blocked or committing 24 turnovers against West Virginia.

Much of what he is seeking has less to do with basketball than trying to change young people’s approach to the game.

Speaking on 93.7 FM on Thursday morning, Capel spoke extensively about coaching in the social media world.

“We live real reality. This is real,” he said, noting he considered deleting all of his social media platforms Wednesday morning. “It’s wins and losses. That’s what it comes down to, not about ‘likes,’ not about, ‘I had this one move on SportsCenter top 10 plays.’ But did you win? At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.

“Right after practice, the very first thing (Pitt’s players) do is go to their phones. I don’t see it because I’m not in there, but I see it because they’re retweeting something somebody said about them.”

Not all of that is bad, but the problem goes beyond selfies, retweets and Instagram posts. It even became an issue recently when the players’ phones were stored in their lockers.

Capel told the story of talking to his team during a timeout in the Duquesne game Nov. 30 at PPG Paints Arena.

“We’re starting to make a push,” he said. “I thought it was a moment right there we could really make a push, extend our lead and extend our dominance on the game.

“As I’m talking, all five guys that are in the game, they’re looking up at the scoreboard. There was some video. I don’t know what the video was because I was locked into the moment. But all five guys, their eyes were locked onto the scoreboard.”

His reaction: “I broke the dry erase board because I was so furious at that moment,” he said.

Speaking about all young people, not just student-athletes, he said, “Communication, I think, is at an all-time low now — and attention spans.”

Pitt started the season 6-0, a dramatic reversal from ending last season on a 19-game losing streak under former coach Kevin Stallings.

Then, Pitt lost at No. 22 Iowa, 69-68, and the reaction from fans was “almost like we won,” Capel said.

“I think our guys get a sense of that we’re better than we really are.”

After beating Duquesne, 74-53, Pitt lost at home to Niagara, 71-70.

“We felt like we could just show up. It was a dose of reality,” Capel said during the radio interview.

He said he walked into the locker room Wednesday and wrote 1-3 on the blackboard and only one player, who had been talking to an assistant coach, knew it represented Pitt’s record over the past four games. He said no one knew that when he wrote 49-74 on the board, it signified the number of assists to turnovers Pitt has recorded in those four games.

He said he tells his players, “You guys live in this social media world. That is not reality. That’s fake. This is the reality, and we have to change it.”

Pitt is challenged this season with just two big men, 6-foot-9 Kene Chukwuka and 6-10 Terrell Brown, now that 6-9 Peace Ilegomah decided to transfer. That leaves little margin for error.

“One of the easiest things to do is to lose, and I think the guys know that,” Capel said. “It doesn’t require a lot of effort. It doesn’t require a lot of concentration. You just go out there and play. I think it’s a big difference between playing and competing and, then, competing and fighting.

“If you add intelligence to that, you have a chance to be a pretty good team. We have shown that in stretches, but we haven’t shown it consistently. That’s something that I expected, to be honest with you. It’s frustrating, but we have to continue to teach and we have to continue to hold the standard higher than what anyone in this program is used to.”

Get the latest news about Pitt football and all things Panthers athletics.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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