Capel States Program is "Significantly Better" From When He Took Over

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Remember to follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook for continued Pittsburgh Sports coverage: 

Yesterday, after an embarrassing loss to end their season, Pitt basketball head coach Jeff Capel had some words for reporters.  He said, among other things, that the program is in a “significantly better” state than what it was when he took over.  So as to not be taken out of context, here is the full quote when asked if the Pitt program is in a better spot now than when he found it:

“Hell yeah, from when I found it.  It was completely depleted when I got here.  It was a mess.  I didn’t know how bad it was.  I don’t think people inside the program knew how bad it was.  Where we are today, from the first day I took over, is significantly better.  Is it improved the way I thought it would be after four years?  Absolutely not.  No one is more frustrated than me with that.  I take responsibility for it.”

Let’s break this down.  In no way could anyone argue the program wasn’t in shambles when Capel took over.  Pitt was coming off their worst season of my lifetime.  They had finished 0-18 in conference play and only won eight games overall.  Stallings was let go despite a hefty buy-out of his contract.  Pitt does not take such buy-outs lightly so of course it had to be bad to opt for such a move. 

Capel was also inheriting a bare closet.  Aside from Terrell Brown and Jared Wilson-Frame, there was not much talent in the program, and Brown and Wilson-Frame were far from ACC Players of the Year.  A change was certainly needed, and nobody wanted to take on the emptiness left by Stallings. 

So yes, I agree, the program “was a mess” and I’m sure even those inside the program didn’t know how bad it was.  However, for something to be significantly better, it needs to be even somewhat better.  I can’t consider the state of the program any better than it was after the 2017-18 season.

This 2021-22 season featured one the lowest scoring Pitt basketball teams since that 2017-18 team.  It also was the lowest scoring team Pitt has had since they joined the ACC back in 2013.  While they did play much better defensively, it didn’t amount to anything.  Pitt won just eleven games this season, three more than the travesty that was 17-18’.  This included six wins in conference, however, the ACC is having a clear down year and unless you’re winning double digit games in conference, who cares?  12th in the conference versus 15th in the conference doesn’t much matter when you get ran out of Brooklyn in the 1st round of the ACC Tournament by the likes of Boston College.

Also, in my opinion, the reputation of the program is worse than it was when Capel took over.  Instead of being the previous powerhouse that just chose the wrong coach after Jamie Dixon, we are now a dumpster fire with no recruits, and those few good players we do recruit, leave.  Pitt ended the season on a 5-game losing streak which had an average margin of defeat of 20.2 points, including a 20-point loss to 12-19 Boston College.  A game Pitt scored just 46 points.  46 points in a 40-minute college basketball game.  Embarrassing.

So what’s “significantly better”?  Pitt has zero recruits from the 2022 class, and center John Hugley could find it in his best interest to enter the transfer portal and join a program with some promise.  Also, Pitt’s only other player with even remotely the ability to score, Mo Gueye, just played his last year of eligibility.  Furthermore, with the program’s reputation seemingly dive bombing, who is going to transfer in?  Even if Hugley does stay, the only new starter for the 2022-23 season appears to be Nike Sibande.  Sibande is good, but his return essentially breaks even with the departing of Gueye. 

So I ask again, what is significantly better?  Aside from reported facility upgrades, and the Pete actually looking really great, which it always has, what is even remotely better?  We were at rock bottom when Stallings was fired.  Today we may be off the bottom, but it’s still not too much of a gap to be able to reach out and touch it.  So no, Mr. Capel, the program is not significantly better than where you found it. In fact, it may not even be a little bit better.  The best I can say for you, is it might not be worse.