Bloomington, Ind. – Give Kelvin Sampson credit…he's maintained his sense of humor.
Caught in the midst of a wave of criticism and speculation following Sunday's revelation of improper phone calls made by his coaching staff, Sampson went face-to-face with the media for the first time since the news broke about the improprieties and subsequent sanctions.
The second-year coach generally steered clear of questions about the matter, saying until the university and NCAA had an opportunity to review the case he'd have no further comment. He instead looked to redirect the attention away from phone calls and toward his team, which was scheduled to hit the practice floor at 3:30 p.m.
But when someone's cell phone inadvertently went off midway though his 30-minute press conference, he couldn't help but crack a smile…as well as a joke.
"That's the last thing we need," Sampson quipped.
His comment drew plenty of laughter, but Sampson is well aware of the fact that the situation isn't a laughing matter. While not going into any specifics Thursday afternoon, he did both he and Assistant Coach Rob Senderoff addressed the team on Sunday before word got out, and he said the staff had also contacted the three members of the 2008 recruiting class to make them aware of what was about to come out as well.
Other than Sunday, he said the subject has not come up again with his team, and he doesn't foresee it being a distraction.
"After (the talk with the team) was over, we said, ‘here's what we're going to do. We're going to coach this basketball team, get prepared,'" Sampson said.
D.J. White said he missed that Sunday meeting to return home to Alabama to attend his grandfather's funeral. But he did talk to Sampson about it Sunday, and is making every effort to keep his attention on the task at hand, which is enjoying a successful senior season.
"Whatever happens, happens," White said. "We just focus on this team and get ready for these upcoming games in November. Our focus is fine, coach is still the same in practice, still gets on us the same, treats us the same. I don't think it's a worry right now."
If and when it will become more of a worry isn't entirely clear. IU officials have said they've turned over its findings on approximately 10 improper three-way phone calls involving Sampson, Senderoff and a prospective recruit to the NCAA Infractions Committee. The university is also preparing a second report for the NCAA Enforcement Committee about some excessive phone calls to recruits as well.
There isn't a timetable for when those committee's will look at IU's findings and decide if the university's self-imposed sanctions are sufficient, or if they need to either investigate further and possibly hit IU with further penalties.
Until that time comes, Sampson plans to keep his attention focused on his team and its season, which gets underway Nov. 4 with an exhibition contest against North Alabama.
"My responsibility right now is these kids," Sampson said. "I'm coaching this team, 100 percent coaching this team."
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Sampson: Team's Focus Hasn't Wavered
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