Jason Capel is in his fourth season at the helm of Appalachian State University’s men’s basketball program.
Capel has led Appalachian State to postseason victories in each of his first three seasons as a head coach. The Mountaineers enjoyed perhaps their finest season under Capel in 2012-13, when he led them to a second-place finish in the Southern Conference’s North Division and a berth in the SoCon Tournament semifinals, where they nearly upset top-seeded Davidson in one of the most exciting games in Appalachian postseason history.
Capel took the reins at Appalachian State on April 21, 2010 and, at 30 years, three months and six days old at the time of his hire was the nation’s youngest Division I head coach. He went on to make a splash in his very first game as a head coach, opening the 2010-11 campaign with a victory at heavily favored Tulsa that garnered the Mountaineers votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in four seasons.
Appalachian got even stronger down the stretch of Capel’s first season at the helm, winning 7-of-8 games in February and earning a first-round SoCon Tournament victory. He finished 2010-11 as the first head coach in Appalachian State history to win double-digit SoCon games and only the fourth mentor in the program’s annals to post a winning overall record (16-15) in his initial campaign. The Mountaineers’ 16 wins are tied for the second-most by a first-year head coach in school history.
After leading a young squad to a 13-18 record in 2011-12, Capel led his 2012-13 squad from the depths of a 1-7 start to wins in 14 of the next 20 games, which propelled the Mountaineers to a first-round SoCon Tournament bye for only the second time in six seasons. After easily dispatching Furman in the second round, Appalachian led top-seeded Davidson for much of the ballgame before the vaunted Wildcats took the advantage late in the ballgame. However, Capel’s Mountaineers withstood the storm and were in position to send the game to overtime but a would-be three-pointer came up just short as time expired and the Apps fell to the eventual NCAA Tournament participant, 65-62.
Capel has coached three all-conference performers in his three seasons as head coach, including the program’s all-time leading scorer (Donald Sims) and the 2012-13 SoCon Defensive Player of the Year (Nathan Healy). Under Capel’s tutelage, Healy also became the first Academic All-American in program history.
Despite taking over as the 15th head coach in Appalachian State men’s basketball history with a relative lack of coaching experience, Capel is a basketball lifer with a vast playing resume and a spot in one of college basketball’s top coaching lineages.
Capel first burst on to the national scene as a star forward at North Carolina from 1998-2002, where he was a two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection (2001 and ‘02) and the Tar Heels’ leader in scoring (15.6 points per game), rebounds (8.6 per game) and steals (29) as a senior. He helped lead UNC to the Final Four in 2000, recorded the second triple-double in UNC history with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against Buffalo during the 2000-01 season and was a candidate for 2002 Wooden Award, which is presented annually to college basketball’s most outstanding player.
After graduating from North Carolina with a B.A. in communication in 2002, Capel embarked on a professional playing career, which included successful stints in the NBA Developmental League and leagues in Japan, Italy and Serbia. In his first season as a pro, he averaged 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game to help lead the NBDL’s Fayetteville Patriots, which was coached by his father, Jeff, to a league-best 32-18 record and a D-League Finals appearance.
Following the conclusion of his playing career, he spent two years as a college basketball analyst for ESPNU and Raycom Sports before joining the Appalachian State bench during the 2009-10 season as an assistant coach.
In his only season as an assistant, Capel helped lead the Mountaineers to the second-most victories in school history (24), their first Southern Conference Tournament title-game appearance since 2000 and a berth in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT), only the fourth postseason appearance since joining the NCAA Division I ranks in 1973. Appalachian State earned CIT victories over Harvard and Marshall (the first postseason wins in the program’s Division I history) and advanced to the tournament semifinals. Capel worked primarily with Appalachian’s post players in his season as an assistant and mentored one of the SoCon’s top front lines in Isaac Butts, Josh Hunter and Andre Williamson.
Capel is a member of one of college basketball’s most distinguished coaching families. His father, Jeff, compiled 122 wins and made three NCAA Tournament appearances in 12 seasons as head coach at Old Dominion, North Carolina A&T and Fayetteville State prior to moving to the professional ranks where he has served as an assistant with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers.
Capel’s older brother, Jeff Capel III, was a 1,000-point scorer at ACC rival Duke University before moving on to the coaching ranks. The older Capel brother served as an assistant coach at Old Dominion and VCU before taking over the head coaching role with the Rams in 2002. He also served as the head coach at the University of Oklahoma from 2006-11, where he led the Sooners to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2009. He now serves as an assistant on legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s staff at his alma mater.
A native of Fayetteville, N.C., Capel was a McDonald’s All-American and ranked as high as the nation’s No. 5 high-school player after concluding his prep career at St. John’s at Prospect Hall (Frederick, Md.), where he helped lead his team to the USA Today national championship in 1998. He spent his freshman and sophomore years at Indian River H.S. (Chesapeake, Va.), where he was named Virginia’s Player of the Year as a sophomore. He began his prep career as an eighth-grader, when he made the varsity team at Greensboro Day School while his father was head coach at N.C. A&T.
Capel married the former Ashley Heath in August 2011 and the couple resides in Boone with their son, Myles, who was born on June 21, 2013.