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 Elite Eight appearance at the 2022 NCAA tournament.
About two weeks after leading Miami into their unprecedented postseason, Caputo arrived at the Smith Center for a press conference to be unveiled as the 28th coach in men’s basketball history last Monday. He was named the team’s head coach in early April — about three weeks after GW fired Jamion Christian after a lackluster showing at the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Caputo said he plans to take the team to annual NCAA tournament appearances over the next few years with a roster of players who are fully committed to the show, regardless of their role or performance. He said he wants his team to represent the University in a “first-class way” on and off the court.
“We don’t talk much about winning, 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 has made it that it has all the natural resources in terms of location and institution. I think there is potential to be a perennial NCAA tournament team.”
Caputo began his career as an associate coach for Jim Larrañaga under 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 boils down to three points – attitude, commitment and class. He said he would “extract” his coaching and recruiting style while working with Larrañaga, emphasizing consistency in team play with ball handling and disciplined player behavior, which he will implement at GW.
“I have 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. “A lot of what I learned every day for 19 years I will 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 head coach elsewhere. Caputo said that GW’s location and the athletics department’s vision for the program’s student-athlete experience were key factors in his decision to come to GW.
He said he plans to emphasize local recruiting within the DMV and capitalize on the region’s local talent.
“Make no mistake, we can attract the best and brightest to GW,” said Caputo. “And we will. Especially this region, which obviously has the best basketball in the country, is well documented.”
Caputo said he has built relationships with travel and high school coaches in this region over the past 20 years, building trust between himself and potential recruits.
Caputo has successfully recruited players in the past, helping Miami bring in the top 15 Atlantic Coast Conference recruiting classes in 2016 and 2017.
Three GW players announced their transfer from the program following the end of the A-10 tournament, with second point guard Joe Bamisile and rookie Brayon Freeman committing to Oklahoma and Rhode Island, respectively.
He said he doesn’t have a plan to stop GW players from transferring, but will use the transfer portal to bring in new recruits. He said no Miami player will follow him to GW.
Caputo said he wants to focus on defense, similar to women’s basketball coach Caroline McCombs’ strategy during her tenure at GW.
“I don’t know of an offense that’s better when you have to get him out of the net and off the field and in,” Caputo said. “Your offense will be better if your defense is good.”
He said daily development and improvement will be a key aspect of his program at GW, similar to his previous programs.
Caputo coached future NBA players like Shane Larkin and Davon Reed at the University of Miami, who entered his program as low-ranked prospects before being drafted in the first and second rounds in 2013 and 2017, respectively.
Caputo said he has started to organize one-on-one meetings with the players, and his top priority is to dive into training with the team to start building a relationship with the squad.
He said he wants the team to focus on the movement of the ball, which will be harder for other teams to defend and bolster team chemistry.
“We are going to build an environment with our shared behaviors that will allow us to compete not only with the best teams in the A-10, but in the country,” said Caputo. “And I know what that’s like because I’ve experienced it, and we’ve done it in two other places, and I think it can happen here at GW.”
Gabe Lopez contributed reporting.