The Norman Transcript

Sports

March 15, 2011

It will be hard to rebuild

NORMAN — Where does Oklahoma go from here?

The fact it is looking for a new basketball is odd enough. Jeff Capel was linked to job openings elsewhere in 2008, 2009 and 2010. It makes the fact he was fired Monday after five seasons even more surprising.

Players certainly didn’t see it coming.

“He’s the perfect guy for this program. I came here to play for him. I wanted to play under coach Capel,” point guard Carl Blair said after OU’s loss to Texas in the Big 12 tournament. “I don’t even want to think about what it would be like if coach left.”

But Capel knew he was on shaky ground coming into the season.

The Sooners went 13-18 in 2009-10 with a team that included three McDonald’s All-Americans — guards Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin and forward Tiny Gallon. After all three turned pro following the season, his program was left in a lurch.

In an e-mail obtained by The Transcript in its investigation into former assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro’s relationship with a Florida-based financial planner who gave a $3,000 loan to Gallon, Capel laid out his concerns to members of his staff.

“As you know, this program is in a very bad place right now. We have made many mistakes in recruiting, and it showed its head this season in many ways. We have had so much turnover since we have been here that it left (us) in a position where we really did not have any upperclassmen. Now, we will lose many guys from this year’s team, and recruiting is not going as I anticipated. Also, how our guys conduct themselves when they get here, our reputation on campus, and in the community has taken a severe hit.”

The conduct issue appeared to have been cleansed this past season. No players missed any games due to bad off-court behavior this season. But whoever OU gets to replace Capel will still be in a very tough spot when it comes to finding the players who will lead a Sooner resurgence.

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