Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson reacts to a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball championship game against Cincinnati at the American Athletic Conference tournament Sunday, March 11, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

HOUSTON (AP) — A NCAA Tournament mainstay for more than a decade starting in the mid-1990s, coach Kelvin Sampson never doubted he would return to the tournament, even after NCAA violations left him effectively barred from college coaching for five years.

“I thought I’d be back in the NCAA Tournament if I came back to college,” he said.

Sampson delivered on his confidence this year, guiding Houston to its first NCAA appearance since 2010. The 21st-ranked Cougars meet San Diego State on Thursday night.

Sampson coached Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana to the tournament in 13 of 14 seasons from 1994-2008, an impressive string of success highlighted by the Sooners’ Final Four in 2002 and their run to the round of eight in 2003.

But Sampson committed numerous violations regarding impermissible calls to recruits at both Oklahoma and Indiana, resulting in a five-year show cause order from the NCAA in 2008 that kept him out of the college ranks until he was hired by Houston in 2014.

He worked as an assistant with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets during his exile from college basketball, and with the perspective of years he believes the detour from college coaching was a good thing.

“That was a blessing for me … there’s unintended consequences in everything that we do,” he said. “Getting to the NBA really helped me personally on a lot of levels. I liked it so much that I wanted to stay there.”

He interviewed for a couple of NBA head coaching jobs before the opportunity at Houston came up.

“A lot of stars got aligned the right way and I ended up here being a Cougar,” he said.

But he didn’t inherit a great situation at Houston. When Sampson arrived, the once-proud Cougars were far removed from the Phi Slama Jama teams starring Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes …read more

Source:: Usatoday – Sports


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