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Kovacevic: With this hoops hire, Pitt did it right

If only Pitt had this athletic director and this patient, professional hiring process in place a couple years ago.

Jeff Capel gives instructions to a Duke player. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

DETROIT — If only Pitt had this athletic director and this patient, professional hiring process in place a couple years ago.

Look, we won’t know for a good while what Jeff Capel will do for the Panthers’ basketball program. The damage wrought by Scott Barnes, then Kevin Stallings, is severe and still untold given that nearly the entire existing roster is seeking to transfer out. That couldn’t be undone quickly even if it were Capel’s old boss, Mike Krzyzewski, taking the job.

We also won’t know, maybe ever, what all went into Heather Lyke‘s search, from the apparent rejection by Dan Hurley in favor of Connecticut to the apparent mutual disconnect with Sean Miller to however much money was being offered to various candidates. Given that Capel’s name barely made the rounds until the news broke Tuesday morning, it’s likely there was a ton more to all of this.

But here’s what we know right now: Pitt found fresh hope.

Capel certainly isn’t the freshest of the faces out there, having spent a decade as a head coach between VCU and Oklahoma, then the next eight years at Duke under Coach K. But he’s a young-ish 43, he’s famous for being the ‘high-energy’ type as Lyke described in the university’s press release, and his reputation’s long been built first and foremost on recruiting in ACC circles. Oh, and although everything didn’t end swimmingly with the Sooners when he was fired there, I’m guessing he’s probably picked up a thing or two about becoming a better head coach under the greatest college basketball coach of our generation.

All of those facets fit the bill in a big way for what Pitt needs now and further into the future.

It’ll be fun watching Capel rebuild, even if it’s basically from scratch.

It’ll be better yet if his addition can rally enough support to return the Petersen Events Center’s environment to national prominence.

And of course, it’ll be a blast if there can be some winning before long.

The Jamie Dixon departure was what it was, most likely both the coach and the school kind of tiring of each other. The Barnes hire was ill-advised and out of touch. The Stallings hire, made by Barnes, was flat-out bizarre. And then … loss after loss, seas of empty blue seats, even the Zoo losing interest, and 0-19.

This program and its supporters, including the students, deserved far better from the university. This time, they got it. Lyke kept the search mostly low-profile while, by all accounts, luring quality candidates, then waiting out Duke’s loss in the NCAA Tournament to get it done. The administration, which flew blindly in the previous mess by allowing some generic search firm to turn up a never-was — a credible, basketball-specific search firm assisted in this hire — backed Lyke both intangibly and financially.

All good now. Looking forward to hearing what the man’s got to say. Looking forward to the new era.