Former Miami associate coach Chris Caputo is set to take the reins of GW men’s basketball after helping lead the Hurricanes to their first-ever Elite Eight appearance in the 2022 NCAA tournament.
About two weeks after he led Miami through its unprecedented postseason run, Caputo arrived at the Smith Center for a press conference to be introduced as the 28th head coach in men’s basketball history last Monday. He was named the team’s head coach at the start of April – about three weeks after GW fired Jamion Christian following a lackluster showing at the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Caputo said he plans to take the team to annual NCAA tournament appearances in the years ahead with a squad of players fully committed to the program, no matter their role or performance. He said that he wants his team to represent the University in a “first-class manner” on and off the court.
“We don’t talk too much about winning at all, really, some people do,” Caputo said at the press conference. “I know where we all want to go. I’m going to talk a lot more about how we’re getting there. This is a place that’s done it that has every natural resource in terms of location and institution. I think the potential is there to be a perennial NCAA tournament team.”
Caputo started his career as an associate coach under Jim Larrañaga at George Mason in 2005 before following Larrañaga to Miami in 2011. Caputo focused on recruiting and scouting opposing teams and served as the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator.
Caputo said his coaching philosophy comes down to three points – attitude, commitment and class. He said he would “extract” his coaching and recruiting style while working under Larrañaga, emphasizing consistency in team play with ball-handling and disciplined player behavior, which he will implement at GW.
“I’ve got to be myself – I can’t try to be him, I would fail miserably at that,” Caputo said of Larrañaga in an interview with The Hatchet. “So much of what I learned every day for 19 years, I’ll take with me, but I also have to put my own stamp on it a little bit and be myself.”
Caputo said he loved working for Larrañaga, so there were only a few places he would choose to be a head coach elsewhere. Caputo said GW’s location and the athletics department’s vision for the program’s student-athlete experience were primary factors in his decision to come to GW.
He said he plans to emphasize recruiting locally within the DMV and capitalizing on the region’s homegrown talent.
“Make no mistake, we can attract the best and brightest to GW,” Caputo said. “And we will. Especially from this region, which obviously has the best basketball in the country, it’s been well documented.”
Caputo said he built relationships with travel and high school coaches in this region during the past 20 years, building trust between him and potential recruits.
Caputo has successfully recruited players in the past, helping Miami bring in top-15 Atlantic Coast Conference recruit classes in both 2016 and 2017.
Three GW players announced their transfer from the program after the end of the A-10 tournament, with sophomore guard Joe Bamisile and freshman forward Brayon Freeman committing to Oklahoma and Rhode Island, respectively.
He said he does not have a plan to keep GW’s players from transferring but will use the transfer portal to bring in new recruits. He said no players from Miami will be following him to GW.
Caputo said he wants to focus on defense, similar to the strategy of women’s basketball Head Coach Caroline McCombs through her tenure at GW.
“I don’t know an offense that’s better when you have to take it out of the net and step out of bounds and inbound it,” Caputo said. “Your offense will get better if your defense is good.”
He said development and daily improvement will be a key aspect of his program at GW, similar to his previous programs.
Caputo has coached future NBA players like Shane Larkin and Davon Reed at the University of Miami, who entered his program as poorly ranked prospects before getting drafted in the first and second rounds in 2013 and 2017, respectively.
Caputo said he’s started organizing one-on-one meetings with the players, and his top priority is to dive into practices with the team to start building a rapport with the squad.
He said he wants the team to focus on ball movement, which will be more difficult for other teams to defend and bolster team chemistry.
“We’re going to build an environment with our shared behaviors that is going to allow us to compete not only with the best teams in the A-10 but in the country,” Caputo said. “And I know what that looks like because I experienced it, and we did it at two other places, and I think it can happen here at GW.”
Gabe Lopez contributed reporting.