Signing Sampson long term, the key to continued hoops success

For U of H, Sampson deal better not turn into Herman 2.0

Kelvin Sampson. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Key cog

Coach Kelvin Sampson has restored and re-built the Cougar Basketball Program

Kelvin Sampson. Getty Images

The University of Houston Men's Basketball team just wrapped up its most successful regular season in the program's history and the deepest NCAA tournament run in over 30 years. Head coach Kelvin Sampson did what he said he was going to do when he took over the program 5 years ago, as the team got better and improved their record every season leading up to this historic campaign. Sampson is now a free agent with his contract expiring after the Cougars fell to the Kentucky Wildcats in a hard fought contest that saw the Coogs fight back from a double-digit deficit and have several chances to win the game. Sampson and his staff constructed a roster of versatile talent that played both ends of the floor, guarded multiple positions and bought into everything Sampson was selling in terms of the desire and effort necessary to play winning basketball on a nightly basis. The coach more than lived up to his end of the bargain and contract he signed with the university. It's now time for the school to step and make sure he stays for the long haul and continues to build on the winning culture he created when he resurrected and re-built the program. Cougar fans have been there and done that when it comes to coaches that came in and found success, only to leave the first chance they got to springboard to a perceived bigger, better situation. The time is now to stop being a stepping stone for up and coming coaches and to send a message that the university is now a premier destination that rewards winning leadership with long term financial security.

Adios, Tom

University of Texas football coach Tom Herman

Tom Herman sold the Coogs out for a big deal with the Horns

Tim Warner/Getty Images

We don't need to look very far back in time when we scan the history of Houston Athletics to find a coach that had immediate success only to mislead the administration and scholarship athletes and jump ship just when everyone thought he was their long term solution that would be in H-town for years to come. Tom Herman had everyone fooled into thinking he loved the city, the school, the success and the opportunity to put the program back on the national scene as a perennial top 25 squad. His players bought into his passion well before he started kissing them as they got off the bus on game day and the administration and the biggest boosters of the athletic department were sold a bill of goods that he was here for the long haul. Just as fast as he had gotten the entire city to buy in and believe the hype train he had ridden into town on, he was gone like a rocket ship, soaring to greener pastures in Austin, when the University of Texas backed up the Brinks truck and made him an offer he wouldn't refuse. His departure would set the program back several years and a few disappointing seasons.

Bring on Dana

Dana Holgorson was brought back to secure stability and success to Cougar Football

After firing Herman's successor, Major Applewhite, the school put its money where it's mouth is and reeled in a big-time leader in West Virginia head man and former U of H offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorson. They were the aggressor and the hunter, instead of the feeding ground that was hunted, as they made him an offer he couldn't refuse and made sure that this time around the Coogs would not be in a position to lose. The move solidified the long term leadership of the program and gave them a chance to compete for every recruit as well as conference titles, major bowl games and potentially a whole lot more. If they use that process as a blueprint, the time is now for them to do the exact same thing with Sampson and the basketball team.

All about Fertitta

Fertitta Center

Tilman Fertitta could be the key in the Coogs keeping Kelvin Sampson

Tilman Fertitta made the Fertitta Center a reality. Houston Cougars Men's Hoops Facebook

We have all heard the rumors that Arkansas wants Sampson and Hunter Yurachek, the AD for the Razorbacks, knows him well and would love to steal him away to do for the Hogs what he has done for the Coogs. After all, Yurachek was the same guy in the same position at U of H, that brought Sampson in to turn around his hoops team. He would get his man and parlay that success, the winning football team, the other nationally recognized programs like track and all the new facilities into a bigger, seemingly better gig in the SEC. Yet another example of a "jumper" that used the opportunity in Houston to springboard him to more money and a better offer elsewhere. There are reports out there that Sampson has been offered a 6 year, 18 million dollar deal to stay on campus and continue coaching the Coogs if that is indeed the case he would be in the rare air of the top 25 highest paid coaches in the sport. He already has his family deeply involved with his son on his coaching staff and daughter in charge of Basketball Operations, which the University happily supports. The family likes Houston as a city and has roots here having been here for over nine years including his four years as a Rockets assistant. As long as the dollars make sense, it seems like a no-brainer that Kelvin can keep it all in the family and stay put on Cullen Boulevard. Let's hope the administration and their biggest booster, Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta, can make the dollars make sense and keep the coach where he belongs in H-town.

Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson says lack of experience is what caused a one-point loss

Cougars fall short of comeback in thrilling loss to BYU

Kelvin Sampson. Bob Levey/Getty Images

With five seconds remaining, the Houston Cougars led by one when Connor Harding inbound the ball for the BYU Cougars late in the second half. After nearly trailing the entire game, Houston was seconds away from completing what seemed to be an impossible comeback until the final minute of the game.

Harding made a clean pass to TJ Haws, who drove to the right side of the court and scored off a 15-foot fadeaway jumper at the buzzer. The basket gave the Cougars their first loss of the 2019-20 season in a 72-71 defeat to BYU, Friday night, inside in Fertitta Center in Houston.

"I thought their kids played well all night," Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "They have a very well discipline team that really understands what they are trying to do, and they did a great job executing."

Ahead of Friday's match against BYU, Kelvin Sampson spoke on the challenges of facing the Cougars on Thursday. In his interview, Sampson discussed the importance of defending the three against a great shooting team. Unfortunately, the problems he foreshowed became a reality.

Jake Toolson, who scored 14 points in the win, opened the game with a triple for BYU, as the Cougars jumped out to a 14 point advantage over Houston. BYU opened the game shooting 50.0% from deep while scoring 14 points in the paint, but more impressively, it was their play on the defensive end that gave way to a 35-28 halftime lead.

BYU forced Houston to commit nine turnovers in the first half, in which they would convert into 11 addition points. As Houston struggled to buy a basket shooting 36.7% from the field, 18.2% from 3-point range, the only bright spot for the Cougars in the first half came from Fabian White, as the junior forward recorded eight points, five rebounds and a block.

With their inability to score from the outside, the Cougars moved away from the 3-point shot attempts and focused their comeback scoring from the inside and picking up their defensive intensity. Midway through the second half, Cedrick Alley rejected a layup attempt from BYU's Alex Barcello, which gave way to an easy fastbreak bucket by DeJon Jarreau — the basket cut Houston's halftime deficit down to one.

Although Houston would have all the momentum on their side, the Cougars never took full control of the opportunity at hand. While they manage to hold BYU 3-point shooting to 28.6% in the second half, Houston gave up 18 points in the paint, as the Cougars scored on 11 layups.

"Hats off to BYU, but we did not play well to win this game," Sampson said. "We just made too many mistakes, and we have to catch up to ourselves. We have keep improving."

While White ended the night with 14 points and five rebounds, Houston was led in scoring by Caleb Mills. The freshman guard recorded a game-high 17 points in a loss, shooting 7-for-13 from the field, 1-3 from deep.

"He was not great on defense, but I was proud of Caleb," Sampson said. "He can score and was dependable in this game. I know the other guys will get better as the season go on, but he is just a talented offensive player."

Following the tough loss, the Houston Cougars will hit the road on Tuesday to face off against the 3-1 Rice Owls, inside the Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 P.M.

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