Every-Thing Sports

The Cougars will be fine with or without Coach Sampson

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The University of Houston men's basketball program has a bit of a storied history. The Cougars have produced a few hall of famers, retired five numbers, made five Final Four appearances, and was runner up twice. All of this happened when some of the current players' parents were kids. To say it's been a while would be an understatement.

When a program goes that long without making consistent noise, it can be detrimental. But when you're a commuter school in the fourth largest city in the country in a state where football (at all levels) is akin to a religion, it can make you almost obsolete. What some may have once call a sleeping giant, others called it a rotting carcass.

Tilman Fertitta is a proud alumni who happens to be a billionaire that's very generous with his money. He's the Tywin Lannister of the university. Whenever the university needs a financial windfall, he floats the bill. Because of this, and his acumen as a successful businessman, he also sits on the board of regents as its chairman.

Over the last few years, he's made several moves to help bolster the school's profile. He was the driving force behind TDECU Stadium (football) and the Fertitta Center (basketball). When the school wanted to rid itself of head football coach Major Applewhite and hire Dana Holgersen, Fertitta was there to ensure it all went smoothly.

The football program has had much more success than the basketball program has over the last 10 or so years. From Art Briles, to Kevin Sumlin to Tom Herman, it has enjoyed up and coming coaches who've used the job as a springboard to a higher profile gig. Bringing in Holgersen on a five year deal worth $20 million dollars not only solidified the football program, but also ensured its continued success.

When word came down that basketball coach Kelvin Sampson may entertain offers from the University of Arkansas, panic creeped in amongst some of the Cougar faithful. They had heard this before: hot coach gets dormant program going and leaves for greener pastures. Maybe it wouldn't happen this time around because it's basketball, not football. It's easier to build and maintain an NCAA basketball program than it is in football. But that didn't matter to the fans who thought "here we go again." On Monday, KPRC's Randy McIlvoy tweeted out that the university offered Sampson a six year deal worth $18 million dollars and both sides are working on an extension.

While I think bringing back Sampson is a good idea, I also believe the program will be fine if he takes off for greener pastures as well. Why? Number one reason is Fertitta. He won't let money be an obstacle standing in the way of the school retaining a quality coach. After all, he's very heavily invested in the school and its athletic programs. With the team and new facilities on the rise, a number of good coaches would love to take over what Sampson has rebuilt. Maybe even another veteran coach looking for a way back into the game would be more than willing to cash Fertitta's checks and keep steering this ship. What about a coach at a high profile gig in which they feel as though he's not quite living up to their lofty expectations? Or perhaps an NBA coach with a college background who's tired of dealing with millionaire prima donnas would like another crack at the college level?

There's a myriad of ways this program can stay afloat. The primary reason is that it's now more attractive than what it was before because of Fertitta. Sampson helped breathe life back into it. No longer is it being described as a rotting corpse. This program is now a promising young prospect that simply needs the right coach to pull all the potential out of it and help it see what it's truly capable of. If it's Sampson, so be it. But I have faith it will be just fine with or without him.

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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