Sampson excited about new assistant Ray McCallum

Oklahoma's head basketball coach talks about his new assistant coach Ray McCallum, next year's team and his summer chore of coaching USA basketball. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

The world of Kelvin Sampson never seems to stand still. Despite being in his so-called offseason, Coach Sampson seems to be going around the clock. Coach Sampson and his staff are currently running camps at OU with the all important team camp coming up this weekend.

Just recently, Coach Sampson completed his staff when veteran collegiate coach Ray McCallum finally worked out his deal with Houston and is now finally in Norman. In July, Coach Sampson and his assistants will hit the road recruiting. And then in the middle of July, Coach Sampson will head off and coach the USA Junior Olympic Development Team.

Still, Coach Sampson found a few minutes to talk to

JH: You finally get Ray McCallum on your coaching roster, and now you have the staff that you want don't you?

KS: "We are excited about our staff. When you look back at our success with Oklahoma basketball we have always had a great staff. Jason Rabadeaux, Ray Lopes and Bobby Champaign came with me from Washington State. 'Rab' was the head coach at UTEP. Ray is the Head Coach at Fresno State and Bobby is the Head Coach at North Alabama, which is one of the best Division-II jobs in the country.

"We lost all those guys and we had Bennie Seltzer replace Bobby Champaign. We've had Jimmy Tubbs, who is now the Head Coach at SMU, and Jim Shaw who went back to his home state of Washington to be closer to his parents. Now with Bob Hoffman, Ray McCallum and Bennie Seltzer, we have put together the strongest staff that we have ever had.

"The things I like about those guys are not only are they veterans, but they are men of integrity and great character. They are the kind of coaches that people that have kids that they are going to send to college want them to be around those people. They are going to influence those kids in a very positive way and they have experience in every area. Whether it is recruiting, teaching, or working with kids on and off the court, we are very fortunate and we have an outstanding staff."

JH: Do very many programs have two assistants on one staff that have been head coaches before?

KS: "That was kind of a factor in looking for guys that I wanted to work with. I wanted to have guys who were veterans who could step in and hit the ground running. We have a real good solid base of young players.

"When you think of Drew Lavender, Lawrence McKenzie, Brandon Foust, Larry Turner and Longar Longar, they are four sophomores and a freshman that are going to be here for a while. What these guys need are guys that we can plug guys in who can help them in the future. We have good young players at almost every position, so the guys that we are signing we have to make sure they are impact players, or kids that are going to be outstanding players for us in the future. With the experience that our assistants have, they will find those players."

JH: What do you like about Coach McCallum?

KS: "The thing that I love about Ray is that he has been a head coach and run his own program. At Ball State, he took that program and took it to the NCAA Tournament and to the NIT in postseason play, and look at the players that he signed.

"Ray was the all-time leading scorer in the history of Ball State. He was the first athlete to have his uniform retired at Ball State. He recruited Bonzi Wells and brought him in and coached him for four years, and he turned out to be a first round draft pick.

"Bonzi broke his records and had his jersey retired. He signed Michael Finley and Rashard Griffith at Wisconsin and he worked for a great coach in Steve Yoder. I had a great talk with Coach Yoder in April about Ray. He was on that staff with the 'Fab Five' at Michigan and I talked to Steve Fisher about him.

"Everybody that I talked to about him had glowing things to say. Everybody thinks so highly of him, and the more I asked about him the more impressed that I was. I knew that was the guy that I wanted to come represent our program and come work for us."

JH: I know you love the Xs and Os of the game, and with two new coaches who have been head coaches before you should have some fun on the chalk board over the next couple of months shouldn't you?

KS: "Absolutely. And what is ironic is that these guys have run in the past a lot of Oklahoma stuff mixed in with their stuff at Texas Pan-American with Bob and with Ray at Ball State and Houston. However, they both have great ideas of their own.

"Ray is an outstanding coach and Bob Hoffman has been great to sit down and just talk basketball with. He has a great feel for offense and how to get guys open. There will be some changes. Our core stuff won't change, but there are always things that you can get better at, and I am looking forward to getting their ideas and getting them plugged into helping Oklahoma become a better program."

JH: Don't a lot of teams run Oklahoma's stuff or your stuff?

KS: "Yeah. Well, that shows you how successful we have been at Oklahoma. I don't think we took a step back this year at all. Inexperience hurt us and we had never been inexperienced here like we were last year.

"The difference in our offense this year and what we did was based solely on the fact we had so many new guys. When you think about our past most of our first year guys have been 20 or 21 year old junior college guys or transfers. This year we went with four freshmen. I have never done that before, and it was an eye opening experience for me. I am not sure I ever want to do it again, but sometimes experiences like this make you better up and down the board.

"Our offensive sets have been good to us over the years and we have real good solid offensive teams. We have always been real solid in the half cour,t and with the personel that we have now we are going to have to become better in the full court, get easier baskets and try to run more. That is all going to be tied into how good a rebounding team we are. With Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout plugged in there and Foust playing on the wing more, we will be a good rebounding team. Terrell Everett is an outstanding rebounder too.

"The thing that we will improve in the most next year is that we will become a more disciplined defensive team who won't have as many breakdowns. We will certainly be a much better offensive team and much more palatable to the eye maybe. At the same time, that is not changing what we do, but getting better at what we do."

JH: When you were a young coach you got involved with USA Basketball, and now Bennie is doing the same thing. Isn't that going to be good for his coaching career?

KS: "Having been a head coach for different USA teams at different levels, I get to chose one of my court coaches and the guy that I chose was Bennie Seltzer. I think it is great for Bennie to get that experience, but also a nice reward for a guy who has been very loyal to me and our program. Nobody deserves this job more than Bennie, who has done a great job for Oklahoma basketball."

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