“Good” will cut it in just about any profession, just not Capel’s. Good coaches get fired every season and some in this state believe now is the time for a change in leadership of the Oklahoma program.
Capel’s detractors have a case. The Sooners finished the season last night with a 20-point loss to Texas and an overall record of 14-18. For the first time in 46 years, OU has posted back to back losing seasons.
Capel’s squad will also miss the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive year. The Sooners haven’t been left out of the dance two years in a row since 1994.
There was a brutal string of nine straight losses at the end of last season. At one point this year, OU dropped eight in a row and wound up losing nine of its last eleven.
The Sooners have fallen close to the cellar in the Big 12 conference. Only Iowa State finished lower than OU in the standings, and ten of the Sooners conference losses were by a margin of ten points or more. It isn’t just that Capel’s team was losing, it’s that his team wasn’t even consistently competitive. It looks worse for OU when you look at recent history against the top teams in the conference. The Sooners have now dropped four in a row to Texas, four in a row to Texas A&M, and six straight to Kansas.
Critics also love to point out Capel’s recruiting history. Willie Warren, Tommy Mason-Griffin, and Tiny Gallon were all McDonald’s All-Americans and were supposed to be the next wave of Sooner superstars. They were going to pick up the slack after the departure of Blake Griffin, and continue to keep the program in a position of prominence. Warren played two seasons and bolted to the NBA. Mason-Griffin skipped town after only a year and was quoted in the Houston Chronicle saying, “School work was just not in my comfort zone.” Gallon also left Norman after his freshman season amidst allegations that he and his mother received $3,000 from a financial adviser. OU assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro was rumored to be connected to the adviser and the NCAA launched an investigation into Taliaferro’s actions.
The coach is always an easy target. If your team looks bad, the knee-jerk reaction is always to blame the coach. If players aren’t living up to their potential, must be the coach’s fault. If there’s a key breakdown at a crucial moment in the game, the coach is clearly an idiot. If your team’s fortunes don’t turn around immediately, this coach must not be the right man for the job. If your kid isn’t getting enough playing time, the coach must have no idea what he’s doing.
Professional and collegiate coaches get paid big bucks, and I’m sure many of you would trade places with them in a heartbeat. Not me. No thank you. I’m not sure the paycheck is worth the constant pressure, scrutiny, hatred, name-calling and second-guessing that coaches put up with from fans, players, and media. Even if you can handle it, what about the toll it takes on your family? Every day, your kids get to hear about why you stink at your job. Entire websites are created just to promote and encourage your firing. Your demise is almost imminent from the moment you take the job, because there is no sympathy, no grace, and zero tolerance in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of sports. These days, owners fire coaches like it’s a bodily function.
Let’s say you’ve got thick skin, and can get past all the material pointing out every reason why you’re an imbecile. Good for you. Now all you’ve got to do is take a group of men, women, or children and turn them into winners. Do that by managing several different personalities, varying backgrounds, an assortment of skill levels, and a dizzying array of attitudes. You have to know who to coddle and who to criticize. Who gets treated tenderly and who gets a dose of tough love? Make sure you earn your players respect, but don’t be too hard on them. Keep things fun and entertaining, but not too fun, because then you’ll lose that respect. Keep players happy with minutes and playing time, and you better know how to massage the ego of your stars and high draft picks. And if you happen to be a high school coach, good luck explaining to parents why Timmy didn’t make varsity. That’s a fun conversation.