NORMAN, Okla. - Following is a transcript of Oklahoma men's basketball head coach Jeff Capel's media conference at Big 12 Media Day held Thursday at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
MODERATOR: Without further ado we would like to introduce Jeff Capel from the University of Oklahoma. Coach, welcome to the Big 12.
COACH CAPEL: I appreciate it. Excited to be here this morning. Good morning to everyone. Excited to be the head coach of the University of Oklahoma. We are looking forward to this season. Our guys have been working very hard in practice and our individual skill work on trying to learn a new system and a different way to play. We feel like we are making progress. It is going to be a journey. We look forward to taking each step and making a commitment to becoming the best team we can be.
Q. Have you figured out what you are going to do when one of your starters gets in foul trouble?
COACH CAPEL: I really haven't. That's something you can't find out that much, I think, until you get in game situations. First of all, it is really hard because I don't know who our starters are right now. We have yet to identify who our starting five will be. I think as we get closer to our first game, then we will be able to make that identification of who our starting five will be and then try to figure out some sort of rotation. But right now it is a little bit too early to figure that out.
Q. Jeff, you talked about when you first got the job how you wanted to take some time to learn who your players were and what their skill levels were. What do you know now about your team that you didn't know when you got the job?
COACH CAPEL: It is still a learning process. We are still trying to do that, trying to make proper evaluations. That takes time.
When I was hired, I had two weeks where I could work with our guys. And then also, obviously, in the summer we didn't have any opportunity to be on the floor with them. And then once we started back, we can do things up until September 15th in a four-man setting at the most. Then from the 15th on to the 13th of October, we can do things in a team setting.
At the same time, I was doing a lot of recruiting out on the road and so we are still trying to learn. I'm still trying to learn. What I have seen is that, first and foremost, I have never once in a practice or in an individual workout had to implore our team to play harder. Our guys play really, really hard. I think there is a sense of togetherness with this group in trying to prove something. And that's exciting.
Now, we still have a lot of work to do. Like I say, you are implementing a completely different style of play, especially on the offensive end. And so it is almost like having a team full of new guys because we're a new coaching staff. Getting our guys used to playing a certain way, changing some habits - that takes time. And we understand that. We are being patient. But we have seen progress so far.
That's what you want as a coach. You want to see progress. You want guys working hard. You want guys that are committed to being a part of something bigger than them, and that's what Oklahoma basketball is about and we look forward to the journey.
We understand that hopefully we will be a better team as the season goes on. I would like to be a really good team right now, but if you watched us right now, we are not a really good team. We have some really good parts. We have to work really hard to become a very good basketball team, and that's what our plan is. To be the best team we can be.
Q. Coach, how much has your four years playing at Duke influenced your game style of play and your coaching philosophy?
COACH CAPEL: It has somewhat. My time at Duke influenced me as a man, not just me as a coach. I think as a coach you have to have a certain way you want to play, but you have to adapt to your personnel. Because of that, I think you change every year. Even if you have a whole team back, hopefully you change because hopefully your players have gotten better.
I am a big believer if your players aren't getting better they are getting worse because they are not improving.
With our group, we have some guys back, but we did lose a lot. We have some new pieces and with these new guys we will have to depend on those guys - they are freshmen. There may be a day they look pretty good and the next day they look like freshmen. Hopefully we can get some consistency out of them and work really hard.
My time at Duke experienced me as a person, experienced me as a man. The relationships I developed there, the things that I learned, go well beyond the basketball court. There are things I have been able to apply to my life. Obviously, I share some of those things with our team and with the young men that I coach, but also that's heavily influenced by my father, by my time at VCU, by my experiences as a head coach. And I look forward to bringing all of that here to the University of Oklahoma.
Q. Jeff, being new, you haven't had to coach in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City or in Dallas. Just your thoughts on being able to play this year across the street in the Ford Center?
COACH CAPEL: We are excited about it. We are excited about being here in Oklahoma City, having our tournament here. Hopefully we can have a great turnout of fans coming out to support the Sooners. I am a little bit used to a conference tournament being at kind of your home. When I was at VCU our conference tournament every year was in Richmond. It was eight blocks down the road and so that's something that kind of gives you an advantage.
You know what? It doesn't really matter when you get to that point. You have to be a good team and you have to play better than the team you are playing. And that's our goal - to continue each day to get better, each day to improve as a basketball team, to get closer, to show improvement. And we look forward to when we get to that point, where it is the Big 12 Tournament, not to have to travel a great distance and be right here in our own backyard. Hopefully that gives us some help.
Q. Jeff, as a first year Big 12 head coach, is it comforting or what's your thought on half the league being in the same position as you as a first year coach in this league?
COACH CAPEL: It is what it is, to be honest with you. It is what it is. That's just the way it happened this year. I am a first-year coach in this league, but I am not a first-year head coach. I have head coaching experience and so I am going to lean on that for this. This is just a different conference, but basketball is basketball.
I am a big believer in that. I am a big believer in trying to teach our guys the fundamentals. And really, to be honest you, the only team I'm worried about is Oklahoma. I am not worried about anyone else. My focus and all of my energy is on Oklahoma. I think it is exciting for the league that you have new coaches. It is exciting because you don't know what it is going to be.
Sometimes that's exciting. The unknown is exciting sometimes. But for me, my focus is on OU. My focus is on our program and us becoming the best team we can. Our focus is on trying to help Mike Neal have a great senior year, have Nate Carter have a great senior year, trying to help our freshmen become acclimated to college basketball, the pace of it, the speed of it, how hard you have to work. That's where my focus is.
My focus is not -- this is no disrespect -- is not on Mike Anderson, on Coach Huggins, on Doc Sadler. I hope those guys have a great time. I hope they are really working hard with their team, and I am sure they are.
My sole focus is on the University of Oklahoma. That's my job. And that's my passion right now. So that's all I am thinking about, is us becoming the best team we can be and trying to figure out things we have to do as a coaching staff to help our players be in position to attain success.
Q. Jeff, a lot of people look at Taylor Griffin as a guy who is about ready to emerge as a player in this conference. What have you seen of him?
COACH CAPEL: Taylor has probably been our most consistent guy in practice. I think he's had really good practices since we started. He is a talented young man. He works hard. The thing that I love about him is that he doesn't try to do things that he is not comfortable doing.
So because of that, I think that's the reason why he has been the most consistent guy. He has been able to knock in open shots in practice. He plays with a passion. He is determined. He defends, he rebounds. He has been a really good communicator for us on the floor.
Taylor did a great job - not a good job, he did a great job - from the time I was hired to really working on his game, doing things to try to get better. He did a great job of trusting us, trusting me as a coach and the things I thought he needed to work on. So because of that, I think Taylor will have a good year. We will need him to have a really good year for us.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Coach. We appreciate it. We wish you the best for the season.
COACH CAPEL: Thank you.