Looking for ways to empower their players off the court, being aware of history and understanding how they can use their platform for good is something more college basketball coaches are trying to do lately.
Coming on the heels of Davidson coach Bob McKillop taking his team to visit Auschwitz this week, South Carolina coach Frank Martin and new Pitt coach Jeff Capel were asked on the latest NCAA.com March Madness 365 podcast about their philosophies on the subject of doing more for their players than simply coaching them on the court to be competitive and win games.
“One of the things we have to understand in teaching young people is we have to hold them accountable, and that’s hard to do,’’ Martin said. “That’s my responsibility and my duty. One of the things we have to do and have failed at in our sport is teaching them how to be philanthropic.
Martin said an example of this was when he took the Gamecocks on a summer trip to Costa Rica two summers ago prior to their 2017 Final Four appearance. The trip included clinics around the country and Martin said the players were “floored by how they lived and the facilities they spend their summers at."
"It makes them understand how lucky we are and to keep working hard. So many out there need our help. That’s what we are trying to do.’’
Capel said one of the most important decisions he made in becoming a head coach again was to ensure his players were aware of their environment and appreciated what they have as student-athletes.
“I want our guys to understand sacrifice,’’ Capel said. He added how fortunate the players and coaches are to be involved in college basketball.
So he took his team on a non-basketball trip to Washington D.C. in June to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Arlington National Cemetery.
Amazing day visiting Arlington Cemetery this morning. Grateful for the sacrifices soldiers make each day so we can have our freedom! We have a LONG WAY to go in our country, but we are grateful for the people that serve, fight, and protect us! #sacrifice #ZooEra #h2p pic.twitter.com/jkQLDBLtW4— Jeff Capel (@jeffcapel) June 24, 2018
Capel said the players and staff felt the sacrifice and importance of what had been done before them through the visits to each place. He said the players will pay it forward later in the summer by volunteering in the Pittsburgh area.
“One of the things my dad taught me was about being a good man and helping people,’’ Capel said. “I want to teach these guys to love it and feel it. It’s incredibly powerful. It has helped our team grow and become a team.’’
Martin also discussed the Gamecocks roster and how South Carolina can climb back to the upper echelon of the SEC. Martin talked about the team's brutal upcoming schedule with the possibility of playing Michigan twice (on the road is a lock and then maybe in a tournament at the Mohegan Sun), Providence at the Mohegan Sun (Michigan vs. George Mason is the other game), Virginia and Clemson at home and at host Oklahoma State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge game.
Capel went into great detail on the podcast about why Pitt was the right choice for him at this point in his career, how he hopes the program can get back to its status as one of the toughest homecourts in the country and how his relationship with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski helped him get through his firing at Oklahoma, an illness and the devastating ALS diagnosis for his father, Jeff Capel Jr., who passed away in November.
“Duke was a lifeline for me,’’ said Capel. “(Coach K) helped pull me through some really difficult times.’’