The Capel coaching family is savoring every NBA playoff win by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Jeff Capel is an assistant with the Sixers, who are on the verge of eliminating the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. He has two sons in college coaching — Jeff III is an assistant at Duke and Jason is head coach at Appalachian State — and both are able to keep a close watch on their dad’s recent success during their offseasons.
“This is my first win in the playoffs (in Game 2) so I was really excited the other night,” Jeff Capel said. “Both my boys called me and congratulated me on getting my first win in the playoffs. We talk every day pretty much, the three of us bouncing ideas off each other. As much advice as I give them, I get from them. It’s really good.”
His first trip to the NBA playoffs came with the Charlotte Bobcats two years ago; he was an assistant on Larry Brown’s staff. That trip ended quickly though — the Bobcats were swept in the first round by the Orlando Magic. However, the eighth-seeded 76ers are up 3-1 against the Bulls in the best-of-seven series and can advance to the conference semifinals with a win in Chicago on Tuesday night.
Few people can understand Jeff Capel’s emotions during these playoffs quite like his sons, who go through the same thing from November through March with the Blue Devils and Mountaineers.
“The thing is we don’t take it for granted, that’s the big thing,” said Jeff III, who was also head coach at VCU and Oklahoma. “We’re excited. We know this is a very hard profession that we’ve chosen that has very high highs and really low lows.
“One of the things dad tried to teach Jason and I as we were growing up is it’s always somewhere in the middle. Your highs can’t be too high and your lows can’t be too low ... but we’re excited right now.”
They haven’t made it to a game in person yet, but they’ll get more chances the longer the Sixers keep playing in the playoffs.
“It’s awesome because in the coaching profession, nothing’s ever promised,” Jason said. “We’re all really proud of him and I’m definitely glued to the television, cheering on the Sixers. I’m even cheering on Elton Brand, who kicked my butt a few times when he was at Duke.”
Jeff Capel spent 12 years as a college head coach at Fayetteville State, North Carolina A&T and Old Dominion. He also was a head coach in the NBA Development League before becoming an assistant for the Bobcats in their inaugural season in 2004–05 and remaining with the franchise until Brown’s firing in December 2010.
He joined Doug Collins’ staff with the Sixers in November. Doug’s son, Chris, is an assistant alongside Jeff III with the Blue Devils.
Both Jeff III and Jason grew up watching their father work the sideline first in high school and then in college, including when they were Wake Forest ball boys while their father was an assistant there in the 1980s. In fact, an 11-year-old Jeff III appeared on the cover of Wake Forest’s 1986–87 media guide alongside Demon Deacons star and eventual NBA point guard Muggsy Bogues.
Once they reached college, both sons were starters on teams that reached the Final Four. Jeff III was a freshman starter for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke in 1994, while Jason was a junior starter for North Carolina in 2000.
Yet when the sons looked to follow their father into coaching, Jeff Capel tried to sway them to do something else. He even tried to persuade Jeff III to go to law school before ultimately giving him a job as his assistant at Old Dominion.
“It’s a tough way to make a living,” Jeff Capel said. “When you’re a coach and in a bad stretch, everybody suffers. Everybody suffers around you — your wife, your kids, your dog, everybody. I didn’t want them to go through that, but it’s a passion they have, it’s ingrained in them, just like me.”
Maybe that’s why these days are so special to the family.
“They followed us around, taking us to tournament after tournament during our lives,” Jason said. “Now’s a time when we can focus and cheer on dad and cheer on his team.” — (AP)