Kelvin Sampson has not served as a head coach since the NCAA pretty much gave him the death penalty. However, before that he coached the Indiana Hoosiers and Oklahoma Sooners and had one of the greatest tenures of any coach in Sooners’ basketball history, rivaling even that of Billy Tubbs. Well, it looks like Sampson might be getting a chance to coach again as the Charlotte Bobcats have asked the Houston Rockets for permission to interview Sampson.
Sampson is an assistant at Houston and took over the head coaching role when Kevin McHale had to leave the team in order to be with his family after his daughter died. Sampson impressed many people in the NBA with how he handled the Rockets, who played extremely well under his leadership. That is no surprise because Kelvin Sampson is one hell of a head coach.
I understand a lot of people in Norman despise Sampson because it was his recruiting violations that got the Sooners’ men’s basketball team put on probation. Hell, he almost cost the university a men’s basketball team outright as the NCAA was looking at the death penalty. However, while it was Sampson that got us in trouble to begin with, it was Jeff Capel who really nailed the university when he couldn’t control his assistant coaches with the entire Tiny Gallon mess.
Now, I am talking as someone who actually knows Kelvin Sampson, and while he did break the rules with continued improper phone calls to recruits, he does not deserve to be damned by OU fans. The guy is a true class act, regardless of the NCAA sanctions. He made mistakes, both he and the university paid for them, and now he has a chance to get his life back in order.
The fact is, as the Oklahoma Sooners head basketball coach, Sampson led OU to a 279-109 record and made the NCAA tournament every year he coached here outside of the 2003-04 season. Starting in his fourth season at OU, he never won less than 20 games in a season and went 31-5 in 2001-02. He made it to the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight and the Final Four. He made OU basketball something to be proud of.
Kelvin Sampson made mistakes, and he served his punishment. As someone who had close contact with the Sooners’ basketball program while Sampson was there, I am very happy to see the man getting another chance. I wish it could be with a team better than Charlotte, but he has to start somewhere.