lair – Capel on Federiko, improving via the transfer portal, and more

Pitt head coach Jeff Capel met with the media for his weekly spot in the ACC Coaches Zoom call. Capel recapped Pitt’s game with Florida State over the weekend, discussed the improvement of Federiko Federiko, and shared his thoughts on Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey following his announcement that he will retire at the end of the season. Here is a complete rundown of everything Capel had to say.

Your team has been strong on defense for a lot of this year… When you look back to the game against Florida State, you talked about that being your worst performance. What are some of the things you looked at and what gives you confidence you can rebound from that game?

Capel: Well especially going back and looking at it, we had some breakdowns where we didn’t contain the ball and we allowed them to get to our paint. That was one. We had some breakdowns in the second half on our ball screen coverage. But they hit some really tough shots. I think what happened in the first half, they hit like seven threes and I know it was one of the timeouts. I think it was maybe the under-4 timeout, I think they had hit six. For the season they were averaging about seven made a game and I think with them making those threes we clogged our man a little bit more on the help side instead of being in those spots. That’s why in the second half they were able to get some things off of ball screens and the help side wasn’t where it needed to be because we got worried about them making shots. They hit some really, really tough shots and so give them credit. They have some terrific players who stepped up and made good shots. We just have to be fundamentally sound in what we do and we have to be able to sustain it for 30 seconds and then for a whole 40 minutes, 30-second shot clock and 40 minutes.

Wednesday is really your first matchup against a team that is in a very similar spot to you. I think this is your first bubble vs. bubble matchup. Do you think that adds anything to a game at all?

Capel: I don’t. It certainly doesn’t for us. That’s not something that we’ll talk about or we’ll mention. We haven’t done that all year and we won’t start to do that now. We’ll just focus on today and how we can get better, learn from what we did on Saturday, and then turn our focus on playing a really good Wake Forest team. That’s it.

You and Wake Forest are two teams that have really transformed quickly because of the transfer portal. How has that allowed you and Wake to turn things around more quickly?

Capel: Well I can only speak for us, because I know us. It was helpful this year and we were able to get some really good guys who are also good basketball players and who are really good teammates. We felt like we studied it better this year. We had some connections with the three guys that we got, and what I mean by that is that we were able to find out real information about their character as people. We were able to see the basketball stuff, but more importantly we were able to find out real information about them as human beings and that’s probably been the biggest thing that has helped us. Certainly the other guys that we got, three high school kids, a JuCo kid — they didn’t come from the portal but I thought we did a good job there, and then the guys that we had returning. It’s a good mix of guys that have been able to come in and help us.

What are the areas you have seen Federiko grow the most this season?

Capel: I just think being more comfortable with the physicality of college basketball. I don’t think it was as physical over in Finland and it certainly wasn’t that way in his one year at junior college. So the physicality of everything, how hard you have to play and work. Building his body, and again he was a little bit behind when he got here because he didn’t spend the summer with us, at least the second summer session. But I thought he has progressed very quickly. Right now where he is with his game he scores off of other people. What I mean by that is off ball screens, rolls, drop-offs, penetration from the guards, out in transition and some rebounds. He’s not at a point yet with his game where he’s a back to the basket where you throw it to him and he’s doing that. He’s not there and that’s something that we’ll continue to work with him on and hopefully at some point he can make progress. He’s done an outstanding job for us all year with his energy, his effort, and being a really good teammate.

What are your memories of Mike Brey from your time at Duke? Did he influence your recruitment? How did it all work and have you guys remained close over the years?

Capel: Coach Brey, I’ve known him since I was 16. He was part of the recruitment. Tommy Amaker was the main guy and Coach (Krzyzewski). I remember Brey coming down to South View (High School) one time with TA. When I was in school my first two years, they were an interesting first two years, kind of like polar opposites. He was a guy along with Tommy Amaker that I went to the office every day to see. Being a player at Duke can be really tough and those guys kept it loose for us especially for me as a young freshman that ended up earning a starting position early in the season and when there were a lot of expectations for our team. The thing I remember about Coach Brey is just how funny he was and how loose he kept everything and I had never met a guy that was coach that never seemed like he had a bad day. Like he was just always in a good mood, cracking jokes, playing horse and had all these trick shots and I thought that was even more beneficial my second year when we were bad and it became really, really heavy. And there was turmoil everywhere. Just him being there and being someone that just kind of helped keep things light when it was just incredibly heavy. When he left I stayed in touch a little bit but it was hard to stay in touch back then because you didn’t have cellphones, you didn’t text, there was none of that stuff. When I got into coaching, it’s interesting. When I was trying to get into coaching, I went up and interviewed him at Delaware and a guy had left on his staff, so it was like the restricted earning spot. And he offered me the job and I didn’t take it because I knew they were coming into the league, to the CAA. I didn’t want to coach against my people. So I didn’t take it and two weeks later I got the job with my dad. James Johnson on his staff left so I joined. And then probably a week after that, Brey left for Notre Dame. It’s just funny how all this stuff works, but he’s someone that I have always admired. As a coach, I think he’s an unbelievable, outstanding coach, but just as a guy he never took himself too seriously, which coaches can do. And he was just, man he was just a fun dude to be around, to hang out with. Our game will miss him, our conference will miss him, but I’m really, really happy that he gets to do it his way.

(Mike Brey was on the Zoom)

Mike Brey: I appreciate you, Coach Capel.

Capel: (Laughing) We’ve got to shoot some horses, man.

Brey: Halftime…you’re the last home game here, at halftime let’s play horse in front of everyone. Love you man. I love you brother. Keep doing your thing, I’m proud of you.

Leave a Comment