Sooner or late, Kelvin Sampson's name was going to pop up as a potential replacement for IU Coach Mike Davis.
If IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan is looking for a proven winner, they don't come much better than the 12th year Oklahoma Sooner coach. During his 11-plus seasons in Norman, Sampson has a 279-106 record, an average of nearly 25 wins/season, and has twice been named national coach of the year (1995, 2002). With his team's one-point win over Oklahoma State Monday night, Sampson's team improved to 20-6 this season, marking the eighth straight season he's won at least 20 games. The Sooners are also a lock to make their 11th trip to the NCAA Tournament in his 12 years next month.
In postseason play, Sampson's teams have appeared in one Final Four (2002, losing to IU in the semifinals), one Elite Eight (2003) and one Sweet 16 (1999). They have also appeared in five of the last eight Big 12 postseason championship games, winning titles in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
In his 23rd year as a head coach overall, Sampson has compiled a 455-254 record. The 50-year-old coach also has enjoyed successful stints at Montana Tech (73-45, 1983-86) and Washington State (103-103, 1988-94). At Washington State, Sampson built a team that went 30-57 in his first three years into a 20-win squad in both 1992 and 1994. His 1994 squad went 20-11 and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and Sampson departed for Oklahoma that off-season.
A one-time president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, Sampson has also been very active on the international level as well. He's been a head coach or an assistant coach for five U.S. international teams. That includes being the head coach on the 2004 World Championship For Young Men Qualifying Team that featured former Hoosier guard Bracey Wright. He was also an assistant coach on the 2002 U.S. World Championship team that finished sixth in Indianapolis.
Sampson is a native of Pembroke, N.C., and a graduate of UNC-Pembroke where he starred as a point guard. After graduating from UNC-Pembroke, he went to Michigan State and spent one season as a graduate assistant on Jud Heathcote's staff while earning his Master's in coaching and administration.
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: His track record is hard to argue with. He's never been able to recruit on the same level of Big 12 competitors Kansas and Texas, yet his teams have been in the hunt annually for regular season and postseason titles. He's a fiery coach on the sidelines who has always developed tremendous loyalty amongst his players, something that could certainly help keep this year's team intact in the off-season. His teams have always played with a tenaciousness on the defensive end that is a reflection of Sampson, and a result of some of the most demanding practice sessions in the college game.
He's also extremely highly thought of by his peers. While he's in a good situation at Oklahoma, he could be longing for a chance to coach at a school where basketball is the No. 1 love, and that's never going to be the case at Oklahoma.
What Makes Him a Longshot: The Oklahoma basketball program is in the midst of a three-year NCAA investigation into illegal contact with prospective recruits. The NCAA issued a report detailing more than 550 illegal calls made by Sampson and his staff from 2000-04 to 17 recruits, and the NCAA has yet to issue a final decision. Most of the calls were made by Sampson and former assistants Ray Lopes and Jim Shaw. Lopes went on to be named the head coach at Fresno State in 2002, but resigned at the end of the 2004-05 season after Fresno State was found to have violated rules for making impermissible phone calls to recruits.
The Oklahoma program put itself on two years of probation, docking itself two scholarships for this season and one for the 2006-07 campaign in an effort to satisfy the NCAA and presumably avoid further sanctions. But the NCAA asked for more information, and the university will go before the NCAA infractions committee in April. While there have been no illegal activities discovered other than the ill-timed phone calls, the infractions are considered major due to the sheer number calls.
While that might keep Greenspan from entertaining thoughts of bringing Sampson to Bloomington, the Oklahoma coach has his own reasons he might want to stay in Norman. The father of two, Sampson has a son, Kellen, who is a sophomore walk-on on the Sooner basketball team.
HoosierNation.com's Take: The NCAA investigation has cast a shadow over Sampson, a coach that had a squeaky clean image before the story broke. While Oklahoma's contention is that much of the guilt rests with Lopes, the NCAA has said at least 200 of the illegal phone calls were made by Sampson. In addition, the Oklahoma hasn't had the most stellar graduation rates with its basketball program. While Sampson has disputed how the NCAA tabulates its graduation rates, Oklahoma still came in at only 33% in 2005 with the NCAA's new formula. Sampson's success in terms of wins and losses at Oklahoma is unquestioned, but the NCAA investigation and questionable academic success are two big strikes against him with the IU job. Ultimately, they might be too much for him to overcome in what figures to be a highly-competitive candidate pool.
COACHING SEARCH: Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson
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