Friday, April 16, 2010
Capel: Sooners need time to cleanse
NORMAN, Okla. -- Since Oklahoma's disappointing season ended with nine straight losses and an investigation of the program got started, four players and one assistant coach have decided it's a good time to leave.
Coach Jeff Capel doesn't see it that way.
Ending a monthlong silence as his program seemed to be falling apart around him, Capel finally emerged Friday to address the downfall of a team that followed an appearance in the NCAA tournament's regional finals with its first losing season in 29 years.
"If I wasn't happy here, I wouldn't be here," said Capel, refuting reports that he had been contacted by Clemson and Wake Forest during their searches for new head coaches. "That's the first thing. I've never done anything just for money. That's just not how I am. That's not how I'm made up.
"If I didn't want to be here I wouldn't be here. That doesn't necessarily mean I'd take another job. I may get out of coaching. I just wouldn't be here if I wasn't happy. I wouldn't do that to my family."
The tumult of this season has continued beyond the final game with sophomore Willie Warren and freshman Tommy Mason-Griffin, the team's top scorers, deciding to turn pro. Another guard, Ray Willis, opted to transfer. Reserve center Orlando Allen announced this week that he'd be leaving the team to raise his newborn child.
That left the Sooners with only five scholarship players until a trio of recruits -- including Tyler Neal, who signed Friday -- arrives.
The looming dark cloud, though, is an investigation to determine whether the program has committed more NCAA rules violations. The Sooners remain on probation from major violations under Capel's predecessor, Kelvin Sampson.
Athletic director Joe Castiglione issued a written statement Friday indicating that Oklahoma is "working jointly with the NCAA in a thorough examination of the facts" and will not discuss the investigation or release any internal records about it until the process is complete.
Capel also refused to talk about the investigation, including whether the resignation of assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro was a related move.
"In order to get better, sometimes you have to cleanse," Capel said. "Sometimes you have to lose some things. Sometimes things have to fall apart in order for them to fall back together. With some of guys that we've had that have left [to turn pro], I'm not really surprised. It's something that's going on around the country, not just here in our program."
Capel said he didn't know yet whether freshman Tiny Gallon -- reportedly at the center of the investigation -- would return to the Sooners or enter the NBA draft but was gathering information on his behalf. At one point in the 39-minute news conference, Capel said he would have two sophomores on next season's team -- then corrected the total to three.
He said senior-to-be Cade Davis will serve as the team's captain and that sophomores-to-be Andrew Fitzgerald and Steven Pledger -- who were suspended one game last season after being cited for shoplifting -- have emerged in leadership roles while Gallon is out with a sprained ankle.
"For a lot of people, it may look doom and gloom but for me, it's exciting," Capel said. "It's certainly a challenge but it's something that I think we're all up for."
The sudden disintegration of the program has come less than a year after Blake Griffin became Oklahoma's first player ever taken first overall in the NBA draft. Capel had seemingly reloaded the program with the addition of Gallon and Mason-Griffin -- the first pair of McDonald's All-Americans ever in the same recruiting class for the Sooners.
Capel said Oklahoma's 13-18 season and the events since won't keep him from recruiting the high school All-Stars in the future, even as he admitted that he knew before the end of the season that Mason-Griffin would be leaving school.
"We want guys that have two feet in," Capel said. "We don't want a guy that still has one bag packed and is still looking to get out."