Lots of people end up working in the family business. It’s common for children to follow in their parents’ footsteps and become part of the work that is often a core of what that family is. For some families, that business might be accounting, carpentry or plumbing. For Jeff Capel, the family business is basketball.
Capel grew up in what definitely could be called a basketball family. His father, Jeff Capell II, was the former assistant coach for the Charlotte Bobcats, former head coach at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. Capel’s younger brother Jason played basketball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was the head basketball coach at Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C.
For his part, as a high school senior at South View High School in Hope Mills, N.C., Jeff Capel set school records and led his team to the 1993 state championship. He played at Duke from 1993-97 and earned a starting spot as a guard when he was a freshman.
His college career, playing in one of the nation’s top basketball programs, was very successful. He played in the NCAA Final, was nominated for an ESPY Award and scored 1,601 points as a Blue Devil.
“Two of my proudest moments from college are winning the ACC regular season title my senior year and playing in the Final Four my freshman year,” Capel says.
Success in any endeavor does not come easy, and Capel’s time at Duke was not without setbacks.
“It was difficult having a losing season my sophomore year,” Capel recalls. “We used it as a learning experience and learned how to fight more. It was a great example of the fact that you aren’t guaranteed anything just because of the name you wear across your chest. You have to earn it every day.”
The Impact of Coaching
For all his success as a player, his work with great coaches set him on a different path. Today, Capel is the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Pittsburgh. In his view, it was his past that set him up for success in the present.
“My experience as a high school and college player shaped me immensely,” Capel explains. “I was incredibly fortunate to play for two great coaches—first, my high school coach, Ron Miller, and then my college coach, Mike Krzyweski. Both men used the game to teach life lessons and both men were very instrumental to the man I became.”
Capel has risen up the coaching ranks over the years. He has been an assistant coach at Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth University and has worked as an assistant to his former coach, the legendary Coach K at Duke.
“What drew me to coaching was the impact I saw coaching and leading can have on someone,” Capel says. “I grew up with a coach in my dad. I saw firsthand the impact he had on young people. That is something I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do.”