Tales from the trips: Recruiting horror stories from Keatts, Roy, Capel and Moton

UNC beat Gonzaga 71-65 on April 3, 2017 at the NCAA Final Four National Championship game in Glendale, Az. at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
UNC beat Gonzaga 71-65 on April 3, 2017 at the NCAA Final Four National Championship game in Glendale, Az. at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Every coach has that one bad recruiting story. A strange family, a meal that didn’t taste as good as it looked, a missed flight, a dog throwing up on your foot, travel arrangements that didn’t go as planned.

These were among the stories told by basketball coaches LeVelle Moton, Roy Williams, Kevin Keatts and Jeff Capel at the Triangle Sports Commission’s Triangle Men’s Basketball Tip-Off Friday afternoon.

N.C. Central coach Moton remembers preparing to visit a recruit at his “Deep South” home. He said when he got to there, the family was chewing tobacco and dipping snuff. He said he also noticed them sharing the same drink and passing it around.

“I was there for 20 minutes, and down south, they didn’t have any AC. It was hot,” Moton recalls, “And they said ‘coach, you want something to drink?’

“And I said ‘you know what, I’m good.’ Needless to say I didn’t get that kid but God bless him.”

How good was he?

“He was really good,” Moton said, “but not worth sharing that drink with.”

N.C. State coach Keatts recalled a time when he was an assistant coach at Louisville, and recruiting a prospect who played at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

IMG_STATEBKB01-080117-ED_8_1_2NC1HNQJ_L332283354 (2)
N.C. State basketball coach speaks at the Dail Basketball Complex on August 1, 2017. Ethan Hyman

A mix up with prospect’s high school coach left Keatts and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino without a ride when they landed at the private airport in Virginia, an hour and a half from their destination.

Keatts was supposed to be responsible for securing the transportation.

“I was thinking to myself, I’ve got Rick Pitino here, and he’s supposed to be going to Oak Hill,” Keatts said. “He’s going to absolutely fire me. So I huddle up with the pilots and I said you’ve got to do me a big favor. You’ve got to get a car and get me to Oak Hill. And I said I don’t care how much it costs.”

Keatts claims he saved his job that day.

“Rick Pitino till this day, he doesn’t even know that story,” Keatts said. “But he will now.”

Duke associate head coach Capel recalls setting up a full day to spend with a recruit to watch him work out and meet with the player and his family. He told the recruit’s parents that he would like for him to be the only school to visit him that day. And Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would be there.

When they got there, the recruit canceled the workout, and told Capel and Krzyzewski to come to the house later. They agreed on a time. But the recruits’ father kept pushing back the time.

Krzyzewski, who Capel says was starting to become agitated, recommended they just go to the recruit’s house and see what was going on. Capel said he suspected another school was there. Capel said outside the family’s home, Krzyzewski texted the recruit that they would come back another time, but the recruit asked them to stay.

Then about an hour later, they were called to come up. As they were walking towards the apartment, Kansas’ coaching staff was walking out.

“They’re smiling, they’re laughing. They seemed like they had a great visit. ... We’re upset,” Capel said. “Then we get up stairs and we’re walking to the door and the door is kind of cracked. Then all of a sudden the dad comes out and says ‘today is not a good time. We have to reschedule.’ 

They still ended up landing the recruit, Capel said.

Roy Williams said he’s had everything happened to him, including “dogs puke on your shoes.”

But he recalled setting up a visit to see Tyler Hansbrough play in a high school game in Missouri. His wife, Wanda Williams would accompany him. The weather was good in North Carolina and they had a private plane, Williams said.

But the pilot told them that there was ice, sleet and rain in Missouri, and the airport was closed. They decided instead to fly into Jonesboro, Ark., a little more than an hour from the destination.

When he landed Williams said he called Hansbrough’s dad, who told him not to come because of the bad weather. Williams said he was determined to go, but Hansbrough’s dad was intent on not letting him take that chance.

“The bottom line is, I took my bride on a private plane from North Carolina to Jonesboro, Arkansas, borrowed a car, went over to Sonic, got two cheeseburgers, two chicken sandwiches for the pilots, and got on the plane to come back,” Williams said. “And I told her, congratulations, this is the best date you’ve ever been on.”

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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