BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - There are two sides to the Kelvin Sampson story.
If you're a glass half-full kind of guy, Indiana is set to introduce a proven winner as its next basketball coach, someone who has been to the NCAA Tournament 11 times in 12 years. He's also won at least 20 games nine straight seasons, a streak that trails only three coaches in Division I basketball (Lute Olson-19, Tubby Smith-13, Mike Krzyzewski-10).
He's done all of that at a school that's known for football first, bowl games second, and spring football third. Now removed from the large shadow that Bob Stoops and the OU football program casts - while also freed to utilize the fertile recruiting ground that the state of Indiana boasts - Sampson could be poised to win big in Bloomington.
But if you're one of those "skeptical fans," this hire could be a bit of a head-scratcher. After all, Sampson's teams are a combined 11-12 in NCAA Tournament games. In his 11 trips to the NCAA tourney at Oklahoma, the Sooners have lost in the first round six times, including an 82-74 first-round dismissal earlier this month courtesy of UW-Milwaukee. In his one trip to the Final Four in 2002, his Sooners were upset by Mike Davis' Indiana squad in the national semifinal in Atlanta, Ga.
Compounding the less-than-stellar NCAA Tournament resume is some trouble that's still brewing with the NCAA. Sampson and Oklahoma are slated to appear before the NCAA Infractions Committee April 21 to hear a final ruling on some major infractions that occurred at OU on Sampson's watch. Oklahoma coaches reportedly made in excess of 500 illegal phone calls to recruits from 2000-04, a matter that was deemed serious enough by OU officials that it put itself on two years probation.
The NCAA isn't so sure that was punishment enough, which is why Sampson will be appearing before the Infractions Committee in April. While one would think (and hope) IU officials have made some inquires with someone at the NCAA's Indianapolis office about the likely verdict, if the NCAA comes down hard, Sampson could be handed some recruiting sanctions of his own, ones he'd have to carry in tow with him to Bloomington.
That's not exactly the sort baggage IU fans were hoping for from its next head coach.
The reaction to Wednesday's anticipated hiring has been mixed. Nearly two-thirds of those who voted in a HoosierNation.com poll graded the hire as either an "A" or a "B." That said, an overwhelming majority of fans – 86.6 percent – believe Sampson wasn't the first name on Greenspan's list. ESPN.com's Andy Katz provided further ammunition to that suggestion, saying IU tried to hit a "home run" by luring Mark Few from Gonzaga or John Calipari from Memphis or even John Beilein from West Virginia, but none of the three were either ready, willing or able to take over the IU program.
So where does that leave the IU program? Time will tell. The 50-year-old Sampson has a stellar 455-257 career record during 23 years as a college head coach, and his teams have long been known for their tenacious defense and grind-it-out approach on offense. It's a style that hasn't always been aesthetically pleasing, but it's produced quality regular season results.
But his teams have been anything but mainstays in March, often bowing out of the NCAA tourney before the opening weekend comes to a close. Those kind of late-season flops have been commonplace in Bloomington for the last 12 years, a fact that led to some disenchantment with Bob Knight in the final years of his IU tenure and to some downright disgust amongst many Hoosier fans during the last four seasons with Mike Davis at the helm.
Maybe, as some would suggest, Kelvin Sampson is the best man for the job. Or, as others seem to insist, he was just the best Indiana could do.
Whatever your point of view, you have plenty of ammunition either way.
DECKER: Two Sides To Sampson Story
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