Signing Sampson long term, the key to continued hoops success
For U of H, Sampson deal better not turn into Herman 2.0
Coach Kelvin Sampson has restored and re-built the Cougar Basketball ProgramKelvin 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.
Tom Herman sold the Coogs out for a big deal with the HornsTim 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
Tilman Fertitta could be the key in the Coogs keeping Kelvin SampsonTilman 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.