It’s probably obvious to most following the men’s basketball coaching search at Virginia that Jeff Capel is only 34. After all, he was still playing in the ACC as recently as 1997. Certainly that qualifies him as a young coach. But is it obvious that Anthony Grant is eight years older at 42? Obviously Grant is still a young coach by any standard, but unlike Capel he looks like he could easily run to the locker room, throw on a jersey, and become a player/coach if needed.
Capel does play regularly against country star Toby Keith, for whatever that’s worth, and “drives a trendy, black Cadillac Escalade, listens to Jay Z, orders movies from NetFlix and prefers a hoodies and jeans over collared shirts and khakis.” He also strengthened his already-strong bond with his players last offseason when he turned down the South Carolina job (after getting a raise).
A quick look at their bios provides some interesting facts. Grant started as a math teacher and assistant high school coach at a powerhouse in his native Miami before getting a head HS job across town. After only one season in charge, he became an assistant at Stetson University in central Florida. Following one season there, he moved to Marshall and then Florida under Billy Donovan, under whom he apprenticed for ten years.
Grant inherited a VCU program from the younger Capel that had averaged 20 wins/year in the four seasons under the latter with one NCAA appearance. In Grant’s three seasons, they’ve averaged 25 wins/year and made the NCAAs twice (with some of Capel’s players). Capel came to the job in Richmond with far less experience, having served as an assistant to his father for a year at ODU and on the VCU staff for just a year. He famously became the youngest head coach in D-1 at 27 when promoted.
At Oklahoma, Capel inherited a team that averaged 28 wins/year under Kelvin Sampson, and made the NCAAs in nine of the latter’s ten seasons in Norman. The run included three Sweet 16s, two Elite 8s, and a Final 4 trip in 2002. Capel proceeded to go 16-15 in year one after Kelvin Sampson headed to Indiana. Sampson left behind a scandal that led to probation as well as an empty cupboard thanks to recruits Scottie Reynolds & Damion James commiting elsewhere. Capel’s 12 losses in year two (23-12) were also more than Sampson ever lost at OU, but at least they came after a 2nd round loss in the NCAA tournament. Before long, Capel had signed blue-chip recruits Blake Griffin & Willie Warren, and will coach tonight against Syracuse for an Elite 8 birth.