Staying with the Coogs

5 quick thoughts on Kelvin Sampson's new deal with UH

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UH basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, fresh off a Sweet 16 appearance with the Cougars, agreed to a contract extension to stay with the team. The deal is reportedly six years for $18 million.

Despite rumors of a possible move to Arkansas, the final result was almost a certainty. A look at five reasons why the deal got done:

1) Family first

Sampson's family has become a big part of the program. His daughter works for the school. His son, Kellen, is an assistant coach at the school and will be named head coach in waiting. That does not mean he will be the next coach. His name has come up for head coaching jobs in the past, and he could easily get an opportunity before his father retires. The younger Sampson is very well respected. For now, however, the band is being kept together.

2) Age

At 63, Sampson might not have another rebuild in him. He will be almost 70 when the contract expires. Is there a chance he still leaves at some point? Absolutely. But the reality is a move at this stage does not make a lot of sense. He likes it at UH, he has brand spanking new facilities to play in, and now he is being compensated at a high level.

3) The future

Sampson has proven he can compete for Final Fours at Houston, and he will have a terrific team returning next season. Yes, he loses starting guards Corey Davis Jr. and Galen Robinson, Jr., but there are players waiting in the wings who will continue to develop under Sampson. Armani Brooks returns, and Dejon Jarreau should take on a bigger role. Nate Hinton was a highly regarded recruit who should improve. Incoming guard Caleb Mills comes with a ton of hype. Sampson has already called him the best offensive player he has recruited to Houston. Next year should be another good one.

4) UH is serious

The Cougars are not afraid to spend money. They gave a big deal to Dana Holgorsen to boost the football program, and now Sampson is being paid like an elite coach. They have a new football stadium and the revamped Fertitta Center, plus practice facilities that would make a lot of bigger schools jealous. The school wants to win and Sampson has the support he needs.

5) Different world

Sampson's path to a title might be just as strong at Houston as it is at an SEC school. NCAA hoops is not always dominated by the big conferences, and the ACC is not a bad group. Besides UH, UCF has built both its football and basketball programs into powerhouses. Memphis has a top recruiting class coming in. Previous powers Wichita State and UConn have excellent traditions. Cincinnati is a year-in, year-out tourney team. The Cougars can win in this conference and win big. Meanwhile, Sampson's staying also boosts the quality of basketball in the state. Chris Beard is in the Final Four with Tech. A&M just added a world-class coach in Buzz Williams. Baylor is a perennial tournament team. Jamie Dixon had TCU competitive but appears to be leaving for UCLA. Even with that, the state of Texas now boosts three high-profile coaches and the future looks bright.

Especially for Sampson and UH.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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