Dick Groat’s hunch about Jeff Capel comes true for Pitt
When Duke visited the Petersen Events Center last year to play Pitt, Jeff Capel couldn’t wait to get there.
Then a Duke assistant and now the head coach at Pitt, Capel carried with him a bag of Duke gear he wanted to give to Dick Groat, one of the greatest players in Duke history.
“I gave him a shirt that we had made of the brotherhood (of former Duke players),” Capel said, recalling the story Friday morning on KDKA-FM. “I was very excited to give it to him.”
Groat, who just his concluded his 40th and final season as color analyst on Pitt radio broadcasts, also had something he wanted to give to Capel.
“He pulled me aside,” Capel said, “and he said to me, ‘You’re going to be the next head coach at Pitt.’ I just kind of laughed it off. I wasn’t obviously thinking about anything like that at that time.”
Two months later, Groat’s words came true and Capel made a point of finding and mentioning him at his introductory news conference at the Pete.
“He pulled me aside and he told me, ‘I told you this was going to happen.’ ”
Four years earlier, Capel met Groat for the first time, also when Duke visited the Pete.
“It was like meeting this mythological character, because of all the stories I heard of what a great athlete he was,” Capel said. “He couldn’t have been more friendly, couldn’t have been nicer, couldn’t have been more supportive of me.”
It was his first face-to-face meeting with Groat, but not the first meeting.
Capel played and coached at Duke for 11 years, and has great respect for those players and coaches who came before him.
“Every day I walked into Cameron, whether we were playing pickup or getting ready for practice or practicing, there was a moment I would always look up to the rafters to soak in the history of the excellence,” Capel said. “I would see his jersey up there.
“He’s a giant in the community in Pittsburgh and a giant at Duke. More than just a great athlete, he’s an unbelievable man who’s giving and caring and just first class in every sense of the word.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .