In early December, during Jimmy V Week, Jeff Capel III knew he wanted to do something for his father.
“Obviously there’s so much, especially in our sport, for cancer – and there should be,” Capel said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “There should be everything for cancer. What an amazingly awful disease. (But) ALS, the disease is very personal to me and my family right now.”
Capel’s father was diagnosed with ALS last March.
“I don’t know a lot about it in sports,” Capel said. “Obviously Steve Gleason, Catfish Hunter – I know that. But you don’t hear a lot about it, especially in basketball. We went to a fundraiser that my dad’s doctor had, and it was two other families there, along with my family, that are dealing with this. That was really good for my family, especially my parents. It was the first time my dad was around people. This thing has been private. My dad was diagnosed March 3 of last year, so we’re almost on a year. I knew right then that we wanted to do something, and my dad, at that point, after that dinner, said it was okay to do something. He didn’t mind it being public. My dad is very private. So my brother and I have been talking about different ideas that we want to, and we’re going to do more fundraisers and different things. But I knew that I wanted to do something like this.”
Capel wrote a piece for the Players’ Tribune, sharing news about his father’s diagnosis and the struggle that he and his family have endured thus far.
“The response that we have gotten is incredible,” Capel said. “Overwhelming. I talked to my brother last night and he had to put his phone away. We’ve been dealing with it in our own private way, but now to hear (from) other people (has been special). You find out even more how much your father means to people. You find out how many people that he’s touched. That’s been the really cool thing, some of the messages that I’ve gotten on text, on Facebook, of what my dad has meant to them. (It’s) been incredibly cool.”
As if helping your father through ALS weren’t difficult enough, Capel is also Duke’s interim head coach. He is filling in as Mike Krzyzewski recovers from back surgery. The No. 17 Blue Devils (15-5) are 2-3 under Capel, with losses at No. 6 Florida State, at No. 13 Louisville and against N.C. State.
Duke, it is worth noting, began the year without several star freshmen due to injury, and Amile Jefferson (foot) did not play against FSU and Louisville.
“We have to create good habits,” Capel said. “You heard coach talk about that we were kind of in October and November mode because of all the injuries and the lack of practice. So we don’t have great habits right now, and that’s what we’re trying to correct. . . . I actually thought we did some good things at Florida State, but Florida State’s a good team. I actually thought we did some good things against Louisville. It’s a one- or two-possession game with about two minutes left, and this was without our most important player in Amile Jefferson. So I did think that we were getting better.”
After losing to FSU and Louisville, Duke beat Miami 70-58 at home on Jan. 21. Two days later, however, the Blue Devils lost to N.C. State, 84-82.
“I do think we’ve gotten better in some areas,” Capel said, “but it hasn’t been as consistent as we need it to be to change this thing.”
Duke will get a chance to turn things around this Saturday at Wake Forest (12-8). Tip-off is at 3 p.m. ET.