Good things come to those who wait. Composite image by Brandon Strange.
A few days ago I was having a discussion in a group chat with a few friends of mine. Mind you, this group is filled with people who have differing opinions, fandoms, and it's also pretty diverse. We will discuss anything and everything under the sun, but we mainly stick to sports. It's like listening to a show on ESPN Houston: you'll get your fair share of sports, but there's also some other stuff that'll get covered as well. One of my friends posed the question of why isn't Nick Caserio getting the same love Daryl Morey got as far as media coverage and on social media?
My immediate answer was short and simple: he hasn't made any splash moves and has only been on the job a few months. But it begs a different question to be answered: can Caserio reach Morey or even Jeff Luhnow status as a general manager? Both of those guys stepped into situations that weren't ideal and ended up turning them around. Morey never won a title in his run with the Rockets, but his teams made the playoffs in 10 of his 13 years and made two Western Conference Finals appearances. He succeeded in doing so while being told he couldn't tank and had to constantly find a way to build a winner. Luhnow was afforded the ability to tear it down and start from scratch. The Astros went on to lose 90 games or more in his first four seasons, but proceeded to make the playoffs in five of the next six, including two World Series appearances, with the roster Luhnow was able to rebuild. Although neither guy's era ended well (Morey stepped down when the team needed to rebuild and the Harden/Westbrook experiment failed; Luhnow was fired after the cheating scandal came down), they both brought their respective franchises to heights that neither had never been seen (Astros winning the 2017 World Series), or heights that haven't been seen in years (Rockets making the Western Conference Finals for the first time in almost 20 years) under these two guys.
But can Caserio replicate Morey and Luhnow's level of success? I believe he can. As with some of my other opinions, there's always a caveat: I believe he can, if given the free rein to make moves and decisions he feels are beneficial to the Texans' success moving forward. So far, he's been making good bargain signings and trades. Of the 20 plus signings/trades/acquisitions he's made, only a select few have contracts that last past this upcoming year. His biggest tradeable asset is currently embroiled in a massage/sex scandal that could hinder his ability to make a splash move to acquire more assets. However, I see what he's doing and think he's doing a good job so far reshaping this roster.
The rubber will really hit the road when the draft rolls around. If Caserio can turn the draft picks this offseason and next into quality players for this team, as well as continue to spend money in free agency wisely, he'll cut short the rebuild time for the Texans. Finding or keeping your franchise quarterback plays a HUGE part in all of this. I don't envy the position he's in right now at all, but I'd trade places with him in a heartbeat because he's in a much more enviable position than I'm in. I truly hope he's allowed to work his magic and change the culture of this franchise. This fanbase and city deserves a winner to root for in their NFL franchise because they've been extremely loyal throughout some very lean years. It'd be nice to see them rewarded with a product worthy of respect and their hard-earned money they choose to spend.
Jamal Shead hit a short follow shot with 0.4 seconds left and No. 1 Houston beat Oklahoma 87-85 on Saturday night, giving coach Kelvin Sampson a victory over one of his former schools.
Shead missed a driving layup attempt, but corralled the rebound and put the Cougars back ahead after they blew a 15-point lead. Emanuel Sharp tipped away a desperation pass by Oklahoma’s Milos Uzan as time expired.
“The main thing (on the last shot) was to get it to the rim,” Sampson said. “We weren’t going to shoot anything outside of 5 feet. There were three ways to win that game — a whistle, make the shot or (grab) an offensive rebound and put it in — and we got the third one.”
Sampson credited the result to Houston’s “winning DNA. We had a lot of things go against us tonight. … We were just plugging the holes in the boat up.”
L.J. Cryer led Houston (26-3, 13-3 Big 12) with 23 points, making 5 of 9 3-pointers. J’Wan Roberts added 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and Shead scored 14 points. Houston shot 56.7% from the field and Oklahoma was at 52.7%.
Rivaldo Soares had 16 points for Oklahoma (19-10, 7-9). Le’Tre Darthard had 15 points, finishing 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
Sampson coached Oklahoma from 1994 to 2006 and ranks second in program history with 279 wins and first in winning percentage (.719). Before Saturday, he’d never coached against the Sooners, but Houston’s entry into the Big 12 for this basketball season provided that opportunity.
Sampson received a warm welcome as he entered the Lloyd Noble Arena court, with many fans applauding, cheering and standing. Just before player introductions, Sampson and his three assistants with Oklahoma ties — former players Hollis Price, Quannas White and Kellen Sampson, his son — were individually recognized with announcements and pictured on the video board.
“The memories that I will take from here are just amazing,” Kelvin Sampson said. “Oklahoma will always be home in a lot of ways.”
Houston made its first week this season at No. 1 a successful one, with two wins. The Cougars are a game ahead of No. 8 Iowa State in the conference standings with two games left in the regular season and remain in the conversation for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Houston has won eight of the last nine games it has played as the No. 1-ranked team and is 35-5 overall while atop the AP poll.
Oklahoma dropped its second game of the week against a top-10 opponent, having lost 58-45 at Iowa State on Wednesday night.
The Sooners pushed Houston to the limit. Houston led 67-52 with 12:01 left, but the Sooners methodically closed that gap and Javian McCollum’s layup with 11.8 seconds left tied it at 85. It came after a hustle play by Uzan, who tracked down a rebound off a missed free throw and threw it off the leg of Sharp, allowing it to carom out of bounds.
Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said the vibe in the Sooners’ locker room was “tough. It wasn’t like they were happy to be close. They’re hurting. That’s a good sign. … That’s the elite of the elite and we’ve got to find a way to win that. That’s my job.
“I thought they were resilient battling back. Houston made tough shots, open shots, good shots. They do a lot of good things … but I thought we did too. We played the best team in the country, but we fell short. The margin of error when you play a team that good is small.”
Godwin went 6 of 6 from the field and led Oklahoma with 17 points, missing only the one free throw in six attempts as well. He also had seven rebounds.
Houston: Sampson surely appreciated the warm welcome from fans on his return to Oklahoma, but he’s undoubtedly glad to have the emotional game against the Sooners over with. Now he can push the Cougars to focus on finishing the regular season strong and prepare them for the postseason.
Oklahoma: A win over the nation’s No. 1 team might have pushed the Sooners up a line or two in NCAA tournament seeding, but the loss shouldn’t damage their postseason hopes too much. Oklahoma probably needs at least one win next week — at home against Cincinnati or at Texas — to stay comfortably off the NCAA bubble heading into the Big 12 Tournament.
Houston: At Central Florida on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma: Host Cincinnati on Tuesday night.