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.

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The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers 400. MIS is one of the fastest racetracks in the country, as cars are capable of reaching speeds of 201-205 miles per hour. Hopefully, we will see a safe race considering the speeds we see here. We will more than likely see a race that is vastly different from what we saw last here when the drivers utilized the draft to pass around this track. This year, the cars are less aero-dependent and will be much more spread out. The drivers will need to continue to manage their tires as they have been doing all year.

Last weekend at Indy, Tyler Reddick captured his second victory of 2022 in dramatic fashion. The race came down to numerous restarts where drivers would drive way too deep into the first corner and run into each other each time. This was the central theme of the race, as restarts pretty much decided everything. We saw drivers like AJ Allmendinger, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney get swept up in wrecks in turn one. On the final restart, Ross Chastain decided he didn’t want to be a part of these shenanigans and took the access road that skipped turn one. This moved catapulted him to the lead with Tyler Reddick as the two battled for the lead in a two-lap shootout. When the dust settled, Reddick came away victorious and Ross Chastain was black flagged for shortcutting.

The finish of this race sparked a serious debate among drivers and fans alike about ditching the Indianapolis road course and returning to the oval in 2023. Personally, this doesn’t make any sense to me. While yes, turn one is difficult to maneuver, it’s mainly because drivers all decide to send it as deep as they can, not because of the racetrack configuration. It’s also a bit disingenuous as for years, drivers and fans have been saying they don’t want to see the oval and that the track is designed for IndyCar. If I had to choose, I would say NASCAR just stop going to Indy and go to the short track down the road at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. We have seen so many great races there, and I think the Cup Series would be perfect for that track. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how NASCAR responds to this and what they decide to do for next season.

Kurt Busch will be out for the third consecutive week as he continues to recover from a concussion. This has been tough to hear about, and now there are legitimate concerns that he will not return to racing. There is a good chance however that 23XII could be saving him for the playoffs which are coming up.

For now, Ty Gibbs will continue to fill in for Busch. In his two starts the young phenom has performed extremely well, finishing 16th at Pocono and 17th at Indy. It’s clear that this young man can drive these cars, the only problem is finding a place for him to run next season.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. By any other standard, the season that Truex is having has been great. Constantly up front, leading laps and just overall contending. Unfortunately for him, 2022 hasn’t been just any average season. With 14 winners and Truex not being one of them, he is on the playoff bubble even though he is fourth in points. While his playoff future maybe uncertain right now, there are some good racetracks he is going to where can easily get that first win, and Michigan is one of them. Over the last four races here, he currently has the highest average finish, the highest percentage of laps led, but no victories. I see that changing this week. Toyota and Gibbs have been fast this season as Truex’s teammates have all punched their tickets to the playoffs. Look for Truex to be next in line.

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