Duke honors Capel family during win over Wake Forest

Jeff Capels father, suffering from ALS, sat on the team bench

Mark Dolejs—X02835
Feb 18

During his seven games filling in as Duke’s acting head coach, Jeff Capel never sat in the third seat on the bench.”That’s Coach’s seat,” Capel said. “He’s still here.”Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s back surgery resulted in Capel filling in as the head coach, is back in the third seat on the bench and has led Duke to a late-season run—seven straight ACC wins as of Saturday.Despite the fact that Coach K has returned, for Saturday’s 99-94 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Capel finally sat in the third seat on the bench.Capel, a former Duke player under Coach K, may have refused to take the seat in Krzyzewski’s absence, but the presence of another mentor finally moved him over.Jeff Capel II, former college coach and Capel’s father, sat on Duke’s bench. He took the second chair—the one normally reserved for his son. Krzyzewski moved down to the fourth seat to make room.Capel, who spent 30 years as a coach at the high school, college and pro level, is battling ALS, a fact that his son announced in a heartfelt article published earlier this season, while he was still leading Duke to a 4-3 record in Krzyzewski’s absence.”It was special,” Krzyzewski said. “For me, I didn’t realize how good it would feel to see father and son together on the bench. It was a great moment—not a good moment. It was a big time moment.”The elder Capel is best known for coaching at Old Dominion, but most of his coaching career was spent in North Carolina—first at Pinecrest High School, then Fayetteville State and NC A&T. He also spent time on staffs at Wake Forest, the Fayetteville team in the D-League, and the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. In addition to sending Jeff III into the coaching ranks, following a playing career at Duke, younger brother Jason Capel coached at Appalachian State following a playing career at UNC.”The Capel family have been amazing for us,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s part of our family. Really for the state of North Carolina, the Capel family has been astronomical—grandfather, mom and dad and two sons.”Jeff II’s full name is Felton Jeffrey Capel Jr. When he coached at Fayetteville State, where he was eventually inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, it was in an arena now named for his father—the Felton J. Capel Center. Jeff III has said that the only day of practice he missed in four years as a Duke player was when he attended the dedication of the arena I his grandfather’s name. Felton Sr. broadcast radio play-by-play for Fayetteville State before moving into business, where he eventually earned a spot in the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame.The family’s impact on the state inspired Krzyzewski to honor Jeff II with a spot on the bench.”I asked Jeff two nights ago,” he said. “I just had the idea. I didn’t want to do it our last home game, because it’s for the seniors. I didn’t want to publicize it. I asked Jeff, ‘What do you think? First of all, would you be okay with it?’ He said yeah.”Before extending a formal invitation to Capel II, Krzyzewski wanted to make sure it would be accepted. “I’d rather you put it by your father,” he told Capel II.His assistant coach sent back word that his father would be on board, and Krzyzewski sent the formal invitation … by text message.”It’s better for us to text,” he said. “He was excited. He even used emojis, which shocked Jeff.”With the reconfigured bench, Duke treated the elder Capel to a wild, high-scoring game which wasn’t decided until Amile Jefferson pulled down a rebound with 16 seconds left, protecting Duke’s one-possession lead.Then, after using his son’s seat for the game, Capel returned to his son’s locker room for one last surprise.”The kids presented him with the ball after the game,” Krzyzewski said. I’m glad that that happened.”