Jeff Capel has a full season under his belt as Pitt’s coach now and the former Duke guard and assistant says he has a better understanding of what has to be done to make Pitt relevant again.
Well we’d pick a bone here: in Kevin Stallings last season Pitt utterly collapsed. In Capel’s first season they didn't win a whole lot more but they did become relevant. People began to watch them more closely and paid attention to the players, especially his young backcourt which is highly promising. The better ACC teams still beat Pitt but not as easily as before and the Panthers, for the first time in a while, came to play in 2018-19.
Still, Capel is fundamentally correct: after being at Duke for some really fat years, he didn’t - couldn’t - fully understand what, for lack of a better word, trauma his kids went through before he got there.
To be clear, it’s not like it’s battlefield trauma or living in a war zone or seeing a friend shot on his front porch. The kids who played at Pitt before Capel arrived all had roofs over their heads, solid nutrition, a free education assuming they met that challenge and the young thrill of being competed for by would-be romantic partners.
Losing sucks but all in all it’s still a pretty pampered four years.
Even so, they are ballplayers and competitors and losing as much as they did...what other word would a competitor use for that?
It had to be traumatic.
So Capel’s first priority has had to be healing the competitive psyche and changing the culture of Pitt basketball.
He’s gone a long way towards establishing standards and expectations and the talent is improving. We’ll have a much better idea of his team’s progress in January, when ACC play begins and, just like every other ACC team, adversity starts to creep in to a greater or lesser extent. We think things are moving along nicely.