KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Oklahoma men's basketball played their final game of the 2010-11 season on Thursday night inside the Sprint Center. But just as one season ends, talk turns to next season and the future of Oklahoma basketball.
And specifically, whether or not Jeff Capel will be a part of that future.
Capel was asked point blank following the Sooners 74-54 loss to Texas whether there was any uncertainty about whether he would be back next season.
"Nope. None at all," he answered.
Capel did answer plenty of questions about where this program is headed in the future, and according to the head coach, it all surrounds players.
"We have to get better players and it's nothing against our guys, I think we have good players, but we have to add and we have to continually add better players," said Capel.
The Sooners had players two seasons ago when Capel fielded a starting lineup featuring three McDonald's All-Americans. Willie Warren left, as expected, following the completion of his sophomore season, while Tommie Mason-Griffin left the program to declare for the NBA Draft, and went undrafted.
Then Tiny Gallon left school after an investigation revealed he had been given a $3,000 loan from a financial advisor in Florida.
The defections started a chain reaction which resulted in the resignation of Capel's top assistant Oronde Taliaferro, an NCAA investigation, recruiting losses and apathy from fans about the direction of the program.
Because of those things, Capel's 2010-11 season was expected to be challenging, and it was. But as many fans have learned, the reality of consecutive losing seasons is harder to stomach than the expectation.
But those closest to Capel, including senior Cade Davis, believe he deserves to continue as the head coach at OU. When Davis was asked to defend his coach against the criticisms levied by the Sooner faithful, he saw no allegiance in their calls for change.
"I'm trying to make my answer nice," said Davis as he paused to gather his thoughts. "I'd say that they're not true fans and they aren't really focusing on the core values of what this program is built on. I think that this team has showed character and competitiveness and togetherness throughout the entire year and I think we've done things that people didn't think we could do.
"I think this team is better than what our record has shown. I know that doesn't go over too well with fans and they want wins and results, but I think this year was a big step toward getting this program back to where we were two years ago with the players that they have coming back and the guys they have coming in, I think the program and the university have something very special to look forward to."
As for Capel's position on the quagmire OU basketball became, and his ability to lead the Sooners out of the muck…
"I knew we were going to lose one," Capel said referring back to the Mason-Griffin/Gallon defections, "But you lose a couple of guys that you think are going to be back, that are going to be major impact guys, and we were just left scrambling, trying to find guys. These guys came in and they gave us everything we have but you constantly have to add better players. We feel like we have two with Robert (Goff) and with Romero (Osby), but we have to add a few more. We feel very good with where we are about adding a couple more pieces."
But adding those pieces is not a certainty, especially with an NCAA investigation and reports and rumors about Joe Castiglione's position on Capel's future. Something Capel lashed out against following tonight's contest.
"It hurts some," Capel said of the NCAA issues. "The stuff that you guys have been reporting has probably hurt worse. These reports about me supposedly requesting a meeting - all those things aren't true. I'll tell you right now, I know one person in Lubbock and that's Pat Knight. I spoke to Pat before our game and after our game, so where this report came from that I requested a meeting with Joe, and he rebuffed me, is beyond me."
Capel's response about Pat Knight centered around a tweet from RedRaiderSports.com Publisher Chris Level which read: Capel told folks in Lubbock last week that Joe C wanted to talk to him after season. He didn't feel good about it.
His response about a requested meeting being rebuffed were likely aimed at our own report at SoonerScoop.com. The description of our report was not accurate in my opinion and I spoke up about that comment to Capel.
"I don't know that that report was out there Jeff," I said.
"Yeah, it was out there," said Capel. "It was out there. There's been a lot of stuff that's out there. Guys have a lot of sources in a lot of different places."
It's possible Capel was taking issue with the Level tweet about Joe Castiglione wanting to meet with him after the season. Capel said that he and Castiglione have an end of the year meeting after every season. But asked if that meeting was scheduled, Capel said it hadn't been scheduled.
"We never have it setup, it just happens," said Capel.
"Both of those things have hurt us a little bit, but we'll be fine," Capel added on the NCAA and the reports of job insecurity. "It's just like I told our guys, we can control what we can control and we persevere and we fight through whatever we have to go through. "
As for Castiglione, he's not talking about Capel's future. In Kansas City, Castiglione refused to comment on Capel's status, only to say he would comment when it was the appropriate time.
Castiglione was not in Kansas City on Thursday night as he left early in the morning to attend the funeral of Larry Wade, the chairman of the OU Board of Regents. Castiglione reportedly wanted to return to Kansas City for the game, but was unable to do so.
Capel's players on the other hand, are willing to stand behind their coach 100 percent.
"In regards to coach, I'll stand up for him no matter what," said Davis. "He has my absolute most respect. I love the man to death. I think he's a tremendous coach and I think he'll have no problems and no worries about keeping his job next year."