North Carolina coaching legend Jeff Capel Jr. dies

Former Fayetteville State coach and father of Duke assistant had been battling ALS

Feb 18, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils associate head coach Jeff Capel III escorts his father Jeff Capel Jr. off the court after Duke beat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 99-94 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Jeff Capel Jr. has been diagnosed with ALS and sat on the bench with his son for the game. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Capel Jr., the former head coach of Fayetteville State University and father of the Duke assistant coach, died after a nearly two-year battle with ALS.

“The Fayetteville State University family is saddened by the passing of one of its most respected alumni and former coaches,” Chancellor James Anderson said in a statement released by the school. “Coach Capel and his family are held in high regard by FSU, its alumni and supporters and he will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his parents, wife, children and family members during this difficult time.”

Capel with diagnosed with ALS, the degenerative disease commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in spring of 2016. His son, Jeff, made the news public in January this year, with an emotional personal story on The Players Tribune website.

“We’ve received my dad’s diagnosis, asked our questions, finished our conversations with the doctors and mapped out our plan. Now there is only one thing left to do. Everything else,” the younger Capel wrote at the time.

Duke honored Capel in February, having him sit on the team bench, next to his son, for a home game against Wake Forest.

”It was special,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski said at the time. “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 news of his death is a loss not just for the Capel family but for the basketball world, particularly in North Carolina.

”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.”

The elder Capel spent most of his coaching career 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 was also honored at the ACC Tournament with the Bob Bradley Award for spirit and courage.

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Jeff Capel Jr. after his battle with ALS,” said Jerry Dawson, president and CEO of the ALS Association North Carolina Chapter. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all who are impacted by this terrible disease. ALS claims the lives of too many people. We will continue to do all we can to fight this disease and will not rest until there is a cure.”