Jeff Capel, Darrell Walker Fuel The Growth Of Black Basketball Coaches

In the early 2000s, former Arizona State hoops coach Rob Evans — who also broke ground at Ole Miss as the first African-American head basketball coach in SEC history — sat down in his office and put together a massive list of black head coaches with the hope of getting an autographed picture of each one. He included the predominantly black colleges. 

He was surprised to find 54 black head coaches, out of 318 Division I schools. The numbers were fair considering the limited opportunities for black coaches historically, but over a decade later there is still a dearth of African-American coaches at leadership positions in the major conferences.  

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In 2016, in college basketball, 23.8 percent of men’s Division I coaches were of color, down from 24.8 percent. Twenty-two percent were African-American, down from 23 percent. For years, Richard Lapchick, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports founder, has been pushing for an “Eddie Robinson Rule,” to increase minority hiring in college athletics. The numbers are striking, especially considering 72.9 percent of NCAA basketball players are non-white (57.6 percent African-American). 

Diversity peaked just over a decade ago, with a third of major-conference teams (23 of 70) coached by a minority in 2005. That number has fallen steadily and hit 17 percent (13 of 75 teams) in 2017, the lowest since 1995, according to a Star Tribune analysis of hiring in the six major basketball conferences.

“It’s not bad,” said Evans. “It shows something about our game. We’ve made a lot of inroads.”

The good news is that as of today we can add two more African-American coaches to that list as Pittsburgh has hired Duke assistant Jeff Capel as its next head coach and Former Toronto Raptors coach Darrell Walker has been hired as the coach at less heralded Arkansas-Little Rock.

Walker’s hiring follows the firing of former coach Wes Flanigan this month after a school-record 25 losses by the Trojans. Walker, 57, most recently spent two seasons as the coach at Division II Clark Atlanta University, where he was 45-18. Why Walker who has served as head coach for two different NBA teamsthe Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards — had to go all the way down to D-II ball to work his way back up is beyond me, but thats a conversation for another day. Arkansas-Little Rock gets a guy who is a former NBA champion as a player and has extensive big-time coaching experience. 

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Capel, 43, a former Duke player and a coaching disciple of legendary Mike Krzyzewski, coached under the icon for the past seven seasons. Capels ability to beat John Calipari at his own recruiting game has been a key to sustaining Coach Ks dominance and helping a program that was struggling with attracting the top players for a spell get back into favor with the nations hottest recruits. 

The Blue Devils have landed the No. 1 class in the country in four of the past five seasons, with Capel the top recruiter on staff.

“I am honored to be named the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball program,” Capel said in a statement. “Pitt has a great tradition of success and I look forward to putting together a staff and team that will enable us to build on that tradition. As a lifelong Steelers fan, I know Pittsburgh as the ‘City of Champions’ and our goal from day one will be to recruit, coach and develop champions on the court, in the classroom, and in the community.”

Prior to his stint with Coach K, Capel also spent five seasons as the head coach at Oklahoma, where he led the Sooners to an Elite Eight run with Blake Griffin back in 2009 and four seasons as the head coach at VCU.

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Pittsburgh has reportedly hired top Duke assistant Jeff Capel as head coach

At Oklahoma, Capel led the Sooners to two NCAA tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight run in 2009 with Blake Griffin as the team’s star. Capel went to one NCAA tournament with VCU in 2004.

With his reputation as a communicator and recruiter and his pedigree as a member of the distinguished Capel Family Basketball Tree, expect Pitt, a team that went 8-24 this season and didn’t win an ACC game, to get better as soon as Capel gets his feet wet and starts hunting for some talent. 

“Coach Capel is a high-energy leader committed to being a part of our university and the city of Pittsburgh,” athletic director Heather Lyke said in a statement. “He has a tremendous basketball pedigree and a strong track record of recruiting, developing and mentoring high-quality student-athletes. His relentless work ethic, passion for the game and clear vision of how to build a program capable of competing at the highest levels in the ACC and on the national stage are impressive.

“I look forward to our student-athletes, fans, donors and the Oakland Zoo getting to know Coach Capel and his family and watching this program flourish under his direction.”

Pitt Hires Duke Assistant Jeff Capel As New Head Basketball Coach

Pitt announced Tuesday it had hired Duke assistant Jeff Capel as its new head basketball coach. Capel has been a head coach twice in his career, at VCU and Oklahoma, but spent the last seven seasons working with Mike Krzyzewski in Durham as one of the Blue Devils’ top recruiters.

With both programs in such dire straits, these qualified coaches will be allowed some time to build the programs while evening out the playing field a bit for African-American coaches in Division-1 college hoops. 

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