Luke DeCock

Triangle may have answer for Georgia Tech vacancy

North Carolina Central head coach LeVelle Moton calls out a play during the first half of a first round National Invitation Tournament basketball game against Miami, Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
North Carolina Central head coach LeVelle Moton calls out a play during the first half of a first round National Invitation Tournament basketball game against Miami, Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

If Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt have indeed expressed an interest in talking to Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel about their coaching vacancies, as they have been reported to have done, it shows they’re starting their searches in the right frame of mind.

Capel would be a slam-dunk candidate at either school, the fulcrum of Duke’s recent run of top-rated recruiting classes that has delivered one title already. In addition to his early success at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma (never mind his later troubles with the Sooners), Capel has the additional experience of a few years of mid-career continuing education as Mike Krzyzewski’s lead assistant.

It’s only reasonable and prudent that schools like Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt would inquire about Capel. They’re also exceedingly likely to be rebuffed. If Capel was going to leave Duke, he had a prime opportunity with Arizona State immediately after the Final Four last year. Capel’s decision to stay certainly hinted at some kind of arrangement, formal or otherwise, regarding his role in Duke’s post-Krzyzewski future.

Unless something has changed for Capel since then, his answer this time around is like to be the same.

Georgia Tech might be poking around the right area code, just the wrong coach. If athletic director Mike Bobinski wants to roll the dice, he ought to take a long look at N.C. Central’s LeVelle Moton. It’s a tough sell, coming off a rebuilding season at Central and with no major-conference experience, but Moton took the Eagles to the NCAA tournament and NIT in the two previous seasons after, with very limited resources, successfully finalizing the transition from Div. II to Div. I, a task with an almost inconceivable degree of difficulty.

Moton’s life story and ebullient personality would immediately distinguish Georgia Tech in the crowded Atlanta sports market, and he’s proven throughout his career that if given a chance, he’ll make the most of it. He can recruit, he has beaten an ACC team at Central and while swimming with the ACC’s coaching sharks is a step up from the MEAC, some of that can be helped along by an Xs-and-Os assistant with head-coaching experience.

Moton would also theoretically come cheaper, relatively speaking, than an established Power 5 coach, a consideration since Georgia Tech will also be paying not only Brian Gregory but Paul Hewitt not to coach next season.

There was an interesting conversation conducted among several groups of ACC insiders in Philadelphia during the East Regional, ranking the ACC basketball jobs were they to come open now. Some opinions were widely shared, but one of the most hotly debated schools, with the widest range of answers, was Georgia Tech.

For a certain generation, Georgia Tech conjures up memories of Kenny Anderson and Mark Price and Matt Harpring, a perennial Final Four contender under Bobby Cremins (and later, briefly, Hewitt). It sits in the middle of fertile recruiting ground with a newly renovated arena and money to spend. All of that suggests Georgia Tech is in the upper tier of ACC basketball jobs.

But Atlanta is also a pro-sports town, increasingly so, and it has become harder for Georgia Tech to carve out a niche, especially after these recent years of mediocrity. The academic requirements limit the recruiting pool at an early point in the process, and Gregory’s last team was built around transfers. The cupboard is most certainly bare; this is a long-term rebuilding project.

It’s an important hire not only for Georgia Tech but the ACC, which has gotten a recent boost from the Big East transplants but will always need a strong, vital program in Atlanta, just as it does at Virginia and N.C. State and Wake Forest.

Capel would certainly fit the bill; if he’s not interested, Georgia Tech’s best long-term solution might still be within the city limits of Durham. Moton isn’t an obvious hire, but he could be a program-changing hire for Georgia Tech.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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