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And of all years, and of all games, No. Cougars 67, Oregon State Beavers How the Midwest was won.
Few late-stage coaching revivals parallel what Sampson -- in his seventh cougar fantasy at Houston -- has just accomplished. This is the second Final Four run of his checkered career. The first came with the Sooners inwhen OU was a No. Just like what Houston is here. And in '02 Sampson beat a No. Half the Final Four is set. Sampson's year hiatus between Final Four runs is among the longest gaps by a head coach in college basketball history.
The man paid a hefty price, had a comfortable-but-unfit exile to the NBAthen took the less-than-scenic route to link back up with his own rutted road to the Final Four. Sampson, 65, cut his teeth in his 20s and 30s at Montana Tech and Washington State in the s and '90s. He got to Oklahoma in and steadfastly built up the Sooners into a top national program. As the world changed in the early s, cell phones and modern technology outpaced the tortoise-tempo updates to the NCAA's rule book. Haphazard bylaws were put in place in attempt to keep up with ever-changing tech.
They lagged. But rules are rules, and Sampson broke them. He flagrantly broke them.
Nowadays there are no limits on phone calls or text messages from coaches to recruits, at least not during live periods. But cougar fantasy was different 15 years ago. Sampson fled Oklahoma with the NCAA on his tail and he took the Indiana job, which amounted to one of the best coaching-swerve gambits in college basketball of that era.
The same violations that plagued him at Oklahoma did him in at IU. A five-year show cause came later, the punishment ranking among the biggest ever at the time for a former head coach. Sampson claimed the whole way he didn't knowingly misinform investigators. What was done was done. And ina lot of people thought Sampson's time in college basketball was done. He shuffled off the NBA, where he tried to adapt but didn't find soulful satisfaction.
Three years with the Milwaukee Bucks, then three more cougar fantasy the Houston Rockets. At one point early on as an assistant, Sampson was working in practice with a big man and laying into the player about jumping a screen on defense. Sampson was just being Sampson: a fiery teacher trying to better a player -- albeit a veteran. The player turned to Sampson, and this is a paraphrase, but essentially said, "Coach, you're a great guy and trying to help. But let me tell you something. I will never jump a ball screen.
Everything in my contract says I have to block shots and rebound. That's where my bonuses are. So I'm going to block shots and rebound. I won't be jumping one ball screen for you. Inwhen the show cause was lifted, he ached to get back to college. But what school would take him?
The one in the city he lived in. There was a once-proud program down the street that needed more than a rebuild. It needed an architect, an engineer, an inventor and a force of coaching nature in one. Someone great enough to turn around Houston, but also desperate enough to take the job.
Houston might have had the worst facilities decades past their expiration date and infrastructure of any program with multiple Final Four appearances to its name at that point. He liked the idea you could recruit in Houston and be home for dinner. It wasn't a blue blood, and so there wasn't huge pressure. The entry point was perfect, though the team was anything but. Sampson was 57 at the time. If he was going to coach again, it would be a family affair -- literally. His son, Kellen, would the staff.
His daughter, Lauren, would be the director of external operations. Running a program comes with a lot of cougar fantasy, like engaging with oft-trying boosters. Lauren Sampson is the go-between. Many consider her the glue to it all. When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston init was Lauren who ran the operation that brought lo of money donations and clothing that helped thousands in Houston and the surrounding region.
Sampson filled out his staff by hiring his former Sooner players -- Quannas White and Hollis Price -- men who are family to Sampson. The family operation, college basketball's Mom and Pop Shop, made it big. Houston made the tournament again the next year, inand returned better than ever this season.
It did so even after losing arguably its best player, Caleb Mills, to transfer early in the season. The family stays tight. This Kellen Sampson tweet from Monday night speaks to that in a powerful way. So many long nights, so many early mornings. This hug was worth every second of the journey.
There have been bigger job opportunities in recent years, none more than Arkansas in The Razorbacks got Eric Musselman instead, and that's working out amazingly well to this point. The Razorbacks fell to Baylor in the other regional final on Monday. But Houston is home.
Kellen is in line to succeed his father, whenever Kelvin decides he's had enough. How could he stop now? The Cougars used to represent something magnificent in college basketball. For nearly two decades this was a nationally relevant outfit with some of the greatest players in the sport.
In no one could have imagined the three-decade drift into obscurity that was coming. The man to restore the luster was someone who was forced into obscurity himself. Sampson is no redemption story; he knocked himself down the mountain. But he's also proof that, if you are great at your craft in college athletics -- ask anyone; Sampson is great -- there is almost always cougar fantasy way back.
By Matt Norlander. Mar 30, at am ET 6 min read. Getty Images. Monday marked Sampson's 1,th game as a college head coach. Of all places: He did it in the state of Indiana. Watch Now:. Sampson has rebuilt his and Houston's reputation Matt Norlander 6 min read. Alabama jumps up with Shackelford's return Gary Parrish 8 min read.
New transfer rules impacts recruiting Gary Parrish 4 min read. Texas, Oklahoma to declare intent to leave Big 12 Dennis Dodd 3 min read. Jalen Duren, 's No.Cougar fantasy
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