Column: Why take a chance on Sampson?

Fool me once, and it's shame on you. Fool me twice, and it's shame on me. But what happens on the third time? Kelvin Sampson, the man that brought Indiana basketball to its knees, is the new coach at the University of Houston. And a gaping wound in IU history has been re-opened.

Fool me once, and it's shame on you.

Fool me twice, and it's shame on me.

But what about the third time? And what was the University of Houston thinking when it decided to hire Kelvin Sampson as its men's basketball coach?

I guess I just don't get it. How could anyone in college basketball trust Sampson to run their basketball program? How could anyone just turn a blind eye to all that has happened in the past?

Like it or not, Indiana basketball fans but a gaping wound in a storied IU tradition has just been re-opened and all of the unpleasantness Hoosier fans experienced not that long ago is going to be back in the limelight once again.

The most difficult thing for me is just wondering how this all came about. Didn't we just live this scenario eight years ago? Things didn't work out at Oklahoma but somehow Sampson convinced then-IU president Adam Herbert that he was a changed man and deserved a second chance.

But after getting that chance, he turned around and within two years had brought Indiana basketball to its knees?

And now comes word that Kelvin Sampson is back in college basketball again. I'm all for people getting second (and third) chances but every time an Indiana basketball fan hears Sampson's name, it just makes you cringe a little bit.

Let's take a quick trip down memory lane.

It has been just over eight years since Indiana crawled into bed with Sampson. It was March 29, 2006 when IU announced it had hired the coach with the troubled past with regard to NCAA violations.

On the day that Sampson was hired, Philip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star wrote a story where he polled a few former IU basketball players to get their reactions. Isiah Thomas and Damon Bailey were two that were on the record thinking it was a good hire. But two others had a completely different opinion. Ted Kitchel and Joe Hillman didn't like it from the start.

"It's an absolute disgrace,'' Kitchel said. "I wouldn't hire that guy to coach my fifth grade girls team. That guy is absolutely what we don't want at IU.''

Hillman shared that disappointment.

"I thought part of this was to bring the IU basketball tradition back together,'' Hillman said. "I'm not sure this is the guy to do it.''

And we all know what happened next. Impermissible phone calls, lots of questionable characters in the program and ultimately the NCAA came down hard on the Hoosiers. The Sampson hiring turned out to be a train wreck.

He was told he couldn't be involved in college basketball for five years and after working as an assistant with the Houston Rockets Sampson is now back in the college game.

I've heard a few people say that the phone calls that Sampson got in trouble for back in the day at IU are no longer even impermissible by the NCAA. But that's not the point. The point is that at the time there were rules in place that were broken.

But see it's even more than the phone calls that got IU in trouble. There was a serious disconnect on the academic side of things, too, one that Tom Crean had to face front and center when he was hired as IU's coach.

And there were simply a lot of kids in the program that you wouldn't normally think would be wearing candy stripes. It was simply a dark chapter in the storied history of IU basketball, but one that is going to come to life all over again because Sampson is back in the college game.

Maybe he's a changed man. Maybe having all of those things go wrong two times will set him on the right path. Maybe the microscope by which he will be viewed under will be so big that he won't make the same mistakes again.

For his sake, I hope that's the case. I hope that is true for his son, Kellen, and daughter, Lauren, two great kids that I enjoyed getting to know. I hope that's the case for his wife, Karen, who was always a wonderful lady to be around.

But this time I'm going to remain a skeptic and I'll admit it's going to be a tough sell.

Fooled once, it was shame on you. Fooled twice it was shame on me.

And three times? I just can't believe that a Division I program is taking this chance.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch


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