Oklahoma coach deals with `challenging’ offseason

Jeff Capel still isn’t talking about an ongoing NCAA

investigation into his basketball program at Oklahoma.

What the coach will say is that he can see brighter days ahead

for the Sooners.

Capel’s program was nearing the end of an NCAA-imposed probation

for violations that occurred under predecessor Kelvin Sampson when

the new allegations popped up at the end of the Sooners’ first

losing season in nearly three decades.

Since then, five underclassmen and two assistant coaches have

left, and Capel has signed nine recruits to replenish his roster.

Just recently, he began interviewing candidates for the two

openings on his staff.

“It’s been challenging. Obviously a lot of things going on,”

Capel said Tuesday before a fan event. “But I’m really excited

about how our guys have worked – our returning guys – and I’m

excited about the new guys we have coming in. I mentioned … just

cleansing our program. I feel like we’ve done that. I really like

the direction in which we’re going.”

Capel said he couldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation or

how long it will take.

Last week, the university revealed that it was sharing with NCAA

investigators the phone records of former assistant coach Oronde

Taliaferro, who resigned in April. The phone logs, released by the

school after an open records request, show Taliaferro exchanged

more than 75 calls and text messages with numbers associated with

Jeffrey Hausinger of Tampa, Fla., and his former employer, Merrill

Lynch.

Hausinger was accused of wiring $3,000 to former Oklahoma

forward Keith “Tiny” Gallon in a TMZ.com report that sparked the

investigation. Gallon and fellow underclassmen Willie Warren and

Tommy Mason-Griffin decided to enter the NBA draft following the

Sooners’ 13-18 season.

Hausinger, who has denied the allegation in a filing with the

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, did not return a call from

The Associated Press on Tuesday.

With the investigation continuing, Capel has made recruiting a

priority. With the departure of Taliaferro and assistant Mark

Cline, Capel mobilized director of basketball operations Bryan

Goodman to get an extra person on the recruiting trail.

The Sooners brought in seven new players in a span of less than

five weeks, adding to what had been a two-man recruiting class.

Capel said he still has one scholarship remaining.

“We wouldn’t just take guys just to take bodies,” Capel said.

“We signed guys we thought that could and will contribute to our

basketball team. We feel very fortunate that we were able to get

those guys.”

Capel said the upcoming months will be critical to his team’s

success, especially after a “very bad summer” a year ago. At that

time, the Sooners were coming off an appearance in the NCAA

tournament’s regional finals and the selection of Blake Griffin as

the NBA’s No. 1 overall draft pick.

“I’m excited to see what this team can become. I don’t know

what my expectations are,” Capel said. “We’ve been through a lot

here in the past few months, really this whole year, so it’s been

difficult for me to think about it.”

Capel said he has received “a lot of interest” in both open

coaching positions but he hasn’t been in a hurry to hire anyone

because the next recruiting period isn’t until July. Taliaferro was

his most recent hire, replacing veteran coach Rod Barnes after he

was hired as Georgia State’s head coach in 2007.

“Experience doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to me,” Capel

said. “Look at me. Look at my plight. I just want people that are

good.”