Jeff Capel became just the second former Mike Krzyzewski assistant to defeat his Hall of Fame mentor, when Pitt beat Duke on Tuesday night. Capel joined Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, who has five victories over Coach K.
Krzyzewski, who has both former assistants on his conference schedule every year, has learned to handle the emotion of facing a former staff member and, in Capel’s case, former player.
“I'm always pulling for Jeff,” he said. “That’s separate. We lost to Pitt, not me to Jeff. We’re trying to beat Pitt. We're not trying to beat Jeff. He’s done a really good job with his team, and now that they're healthy, they have a set group and a rotation, because they played together. A number of those kids, they were 16 and 17 last year. And one of the best ways of learning is to go through that and how he's built his program. They’re tough through experience. They played a lot of minutes last year and had showed flashes of really playing well. Now they're ready to take another step. That's something we don't have. And the young talent we have is not as good, but it's not exorbitant. It’s good talent, but it's not experienced talent. Jeff's stuck with those kids. They look like they’ve got great rapport and they're playing really hard and well together.
Krzyzewski was asked about Capel’s development as a head coach, but he took issue with the premise of the question.
“Jeff’s been a head coach since he was in his late 20s,” he said. “He’s the guy that built VCU’s program, then went out to Oklahoma and won 30 games and had the national player of the year. He’s an established coach, and when he was fired, we were fortunate enough to get him come back to Duke to help us in our program. He’s an established head coach and has been since his late 20s. He’s developed. He’s already developed. That’s why they hired him here. They didn’t hire him to develop him. They hired him to develop a program, which he did at three places—he helped us in ours to continue our program. He’s an outstanding coach and obviously a great person.”