Capel takes Sooners' reins from Sampson

NORMAN, Okla. -- All along, Jeff Capel has heard he's too young and doesn't have enough experience to be a successful coach. It hasn't stopped him yet.

The 31-year-old former Duke guard was hired as Oklahoma's basketball coach Tuesday, resigning at Virginia Commonwealth to replace Kelvin Sampson and take over a program under NCAA investigation.

"I know that this announcement in the college basketball world is shocking," Capel said after being introduced by athletic director Joe Castiglione. "But I know and I have all the confidence that it is the right decision. I know it's the right decision for me."

Capel was 79-41 in four seasons as coach at VCU, his first head job. He signed a two-year contract extension with the Richmond, Va., school last month, running through 2012.

But he left that behind and agreed to a five-year deal worth up to $850,000 annually to replace Sampson, hired as Indiana's coach March 29. Sampson was 279-109 in 12 seasons at Oklahoma, including a trip to the Final Four in 2002.

"In everything we do we're going to strive to be excellent, in the classroom, in our community and on the court," Capel said.

"I really feel like this is a place, the University of Oklahoma, where you can win the whole thing."

Capel, whose father is an assistant coach for the Charlotte Bobcats, led VCU to the Colonial Athletic Association title and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2004 and then to the NIT in 2005 -- the school's first consecutive postseason berths since 1985. His Rams finished this season 19-10.

"I know people are talking about his young age, but look at how he has established himself already, before he got to this point, and doing it with a program that had been way down," Castiglione said.

Like Capel, Sampson also had one NCAA Tournament on his résumé when he was hired at Oklahoma in 1994. Capel pointed out that Bob Stoops was an assistant with no head coaching experience when he was hired as Oklahoma's football coach in 1999. Stoops led Oklahoma to a national title in his second season.

Capel's mentor, Mike Krzyzewski, was 33 and had been a head coach for five years when he took over at Duke in 1980.

"I've never bought into the theory of you have to have a ton of experience to get it done," Capel said.

One obstacle for Capel will be a looming decision from the NCAA in a case involving more than 550 improper recruiting phone calls by Sampson and his staff. The accusations against Oklahoma include "lack of institutional control," one of the NCAA's most serious findings.

Oklahoma has argued for a lesser "failure in monitoring" finding and instituted self-imposed sanctions, including probation and recruiting cutbacks. A hearing is scheduled April 21 in Utah.

Capel said he had discussions about the situation with Castiglione and president David Boren and felt comfortable with the situation.

"That didn't deter me or anything from wanting this job," Capel said.

Capel, whose VCU teams were built around defense, inherits an Oklahoma team that loses three of its top four scorers and top three rebounders in seniors Taj Gray, Terrell Everett and Kevin Bookout but features a strong recruiting class that includes McDonald's All-American guard Scottie Reynolds from Herndon, Va.

"He's from Virginia, so I know Scottie pretty well. I had a chance to talk to him early this morning," said Capel, who's considering visiting Reynolds on Friday.

Sooners players were informed about the hiring about 2 hours before the announcement but started researching Capel after reports of his hiring surfaced overnight. Some remembered him from his playing days at Duke, where he started 28 games alongside Grant Hill as the Blue Devils made it to the 1994 NCAA championship game before losing to Arkansas.

"We know that he's learned a lot from Coach K and that type of experience is only going to help us with our success here," said guard Michael Neal, the Sooners' top returning scorer. "We're just all excited. We can't wait to get started."

Capel graduated from Duke in 1997, then played in the CBA and in France before beginning his coaching career as an assistant to his father, Jeff Capel Jr., at Old Dominion. He moved to VCU as an assistant in 2001 and became the head coach the following year. At 27, he was the youngest head coach in Division I at the time.

Dane Fife, 26, of Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne now carries that distinction.