Capel takes over Sooners

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Jeff Capel was hired as Oklahoma’s basketball coach Tuesday, resigning at Virginia Commonwealth to replace Kelvin Sampson and take over a program under NCAA investigation.

“In everything we do we’re going to strive to be excellent, in the community, in the classroom and on the court,” Capel said at a news conference after being introduced by Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione.

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

Castiglione predicted success for the 31-year-old Capel.

“We know he is going to be the next great coach of Oklahoma basketball and one who is going to make all of you and our fans everywhere very, very proud,” he said.

Capel, a former Duke player, was 79-41 in four seasons as coach at VCU. He signed a two-year contract extension last month that ran through 2012.

“We are both sad and happy with Jeff’s announcement that he is going to Oklahoma,” VCU athletic director Richard Sander said. “He did a great job here, and we know he will do a great job there.”

Sampson left to become Indiana’s coach March 29. Sampson was 279-109 in 12 seasons at Oklahoma.

The Sooners are awaiting a 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, 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 and did not make the postseason after losing to Hofstra in the conference tournament quarterfinals.

The signature of his VCU teams was defense. This season, the Rams allowed 62.4 points a game. On offense, they averaged only 12.5 turnovers and made nearly eight 3-pointers a game. Capel 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. Capel started 28 games as a freshman guard alongside Grant Hill on Duke’s 1994 team that made it to the NCAA championship game but lost to Arkansas.

He graduated 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.

AP-ES-04-11-06 1702EDT

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