Pitt’s Jeff Capel eager to resume reconstruction project in 2nd season | TribLIVE.com
Pitt

Pitt’s Jeff Capel eager to resume reconstruction project in 2nd season

Jerry DiPaola
1780086_web1_1780086-6a0aead1640a495a8f91ac184d181ac3
AP
Pitt coach Jeff Capel answers a question during ACC media day on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Charlotte, N.C.,

Jeff Capel knows there’s nothing easy about competing in the ACC.

Who would know better than someone entering his 13th season as either a player or a coach in the conference?

Capel didn’t have to lose 15 of 18 ACC games last year in his first season as Pitt’s coach to understand the level of difficulty in trying to compete against some of the best teams in college basketball.

He did lose those games, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing now that last season is history.

When he watches his second Pitt team practice and speaks to and with the players, he knows his job might be at little less complicated because it’s his team, finally. Meanwhile, he won’t ignore the past because that’s part of what he’s trying to recapture. Fans only need to remember back to 2016 when Pitt earned its 13th NCAA tournament berth in 15 years.

“You know, this has been one of the better programs in college basketball,” he told reporters Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., during ACC media days.

“They were relevant on a national scale, multiple Big East championships. This (Petersen Events Center) was one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball. It was voted that.

“Those are all the things that appealed to me when they came after me for this job.”

But that’s not all that he liked about the job.

Pitt was 4-32 in the ACC in the two seasons before he arrived, and that scratched his itch to build.

“You know, to a certain extent, it was exciting that it was down, that it was a rebuild because it gives me an opportunity to build it exactly how I want to build it.

“I understand that that takes time. We want to have a solid foundation. Anything that’s sustainable is built on solid foundation, and that’s what we’re trying to establish right now.

“You know, I thought we had a lot of growth as a program in Year One. It didn’t necessarily equate to as many wins as we would have liked.”

But he points to wins that aren’t reflected in the standings, such as:

• The growth of freshmen Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney into experienced sophomores. Johnson led the team in scoring (15.5 points per game), McGowens was third (11.6) and Toney was the top rebounder (5.6) at 6-foot-6.

• The added maturity of big man Terrell Brown, who returns as a junior after leading the team in blocks last season (60).

“I think they have all gotten better,” Capel said of those four players.

• Plus, he believes transfers Eric Hamilton and Ryan Murphy and at least some members of the freshman class might be of immediate help.

Despite the record, Capel was able to stress defense to his young team and the players responded. Pitt was third in the ACC in forcing turnovers (14.7) and sixth in steals (6.9).

What excites Capel even more is something that can’t be measured by numbers.

“Having an opportunity as we head into Year Two to have guys with some experience,” he said. “They understand what the standards are, and they can help teach it where it is not just me and my coaching staff.

“So, I thought Year One was very positive as far as taking steps forward as a program. Our goal right now is to take another big step this year.”

The season opens Nov. 6 with a conference game against Florida State at the recently reconfigured Pete with the Oakland Zoo directly behind the benches.

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

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pitt
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.