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Pitt hires Jeff Capel as men’s basketball head coach

Jeff+Capel%2C+then+head+coach+at+Oklahoma%2C+shouts+instructions+to+his+team+during+the+first+half+of+the+men%27s+Big+12+basketball+in+2011.+%28Rich+Sugg%2FKansas+City+Star%2FMCT%29
Jeff Capel, then head coach at Oklahoma, shouts instructions to his team during the first half of the men's Big 12 basketball in 2011. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/MCT)

Jeff Capel, then head coach at Oklahoma, shouts instructions to his team during the first half of the men's Big 12 basketball in 2011. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/MCT)

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Jeff Capel, then head coach at Oklahoma, shouts instructions to his team during the first half of the men's Big 12 basketball in 2011. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/MCT)

By Jordan Mondell / Assistant Sports Editor

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Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel has been hired as Pitt’s new head men’s basketball coach, the University announced Tuesday.

Capel has made a deal with the Panthers on a seven-year contract. This hiring ends a long, rumor-filled search for Pitt after former head coach Kevin Stallings’ ousting March 8.

“We are excited to announce Jeff Capel as our head men’s basketball coach at the University of Pittsburgh,” athletic director Heather Lyke said in a press release. “Coach Capel is a high-energy leader committed to being a part of our university and the city of Pittsburgh.”

While at Duke, Capel helped lead the team to five NCAA tournament appearances, including their 2016 National Championship victory. Capel has also established himself as a top recruiter, helping Duke land the No. 1 class in the country in four of the past five seasons with the Blue Devils.

In addition to his position at Duke — which he has held since 2011 — Capel served as head coach at Oklahoma for five seasons, making an Elite Eight run in 2009 with Blake Griffin at the helm of his squad. Prior to Oklahoma, he was also head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University for four seasons, leading the Rams to an NCAA appearance in 2004.

“My lifelong journey around the game of basketball has taught me to surround yourself with great people that you believe in,” Capel said in the release. “My meetings with Director of Athletics Heather Lyke and Chancellor [Patrick] Gallagher made a huge impact in the decision process.”

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is hugged by assistant coach Jeff Capel as Krzyzewski won his 1,000th career game. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

During his time at Pitt, Stallings went 24-41 overall and won only four conference games during his tenure. The Panthers are also coming off of one of their worst seasons in history, going winless in the ACC, and are facing massive transfer possibilities. Nine players and two recruits requested release from the program after Stallings’ firing, but two key players — first-year guard Shamiel Stevenson and junior guard Jared Wilson-Frame — intend to stay in Oakland after Capel’s hiring.

The future of Duke basketball is also up in the air, as Capel was poised to be successor of current head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“I look forward to building outstanding relationships with the leadership team at Pitt as well as with the numerous individuals who will help shape our program,” Capel said.

Before Tuesday’s announcement, the 19 days since Stallings’ firing saw numerous reports and rumors of coaches meeting with Lyke and her staff.

Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley — a favorite who was reported to have met with Pitt for consideration — chose Connecticut last week. Tom Crean, a former coach at Indiana and ESPN analyst, was another top choice, but he joined up with Georgia shortly after the Bulldogs fired their head coach earlier this month. Mark Schmidt of St. Bonaventure and Nate Oats of Buffalo had also received interest from the Panthers.

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Pitt hires Jeff Capel as men’s basketball head coach