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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The clock is ticking. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If he is indeed to become an ex-Astro George Springer can officially sign with his new team starting at four PM Houston time this Sunday. Michael Brantley the same. All free agents can sign contracts starting Sunday afternoon. If the die isn't cast that Springer is leaving, it certainly feels like his renewing vows with the Astros would be an upset.

The Astros will make Springer a 18.9 million dollar qualifying offer for 2021. He will of course reject that because contract offers of at least five years and over 100 million dollars likely await. Should Springer move on the Astros would then get a compensatory draft pick. Brantley won't get anything in close range of Springer's haul-to-be but still should at least get multiyear offers. The Astros should make the qualifying offer to Brantley (if they don't they forfeit any compensation for his departure). If they don't out of fear that he'd accept the one-year deal, the Astros would look lame. I don't think it comes to that. Losing Springer would be a huge blow on multiple levels, but if somehow they were to keep Brantley while getting back Yordan Alvarez at even 80 percent of his rookie performance level the Astros' lineup would look to be in decent shape.

With MLB's economic outlook shaky for 2021, it's unreasonable to say Jim Crane and his partners should give Springer whatever he wants. A six or seven year megadollar contract for a 31-year-old player with some durability questions on his resume is an iffy proposition. At the same time, the Astros have been quite profitable in recent years (before 2020), and Crane said over the summer the Astros were positioned to be "aggressive, whatever the market looks like." 13 million Josh Reddick dollars are off the books for 2021, 10 mil of Roberto Osuna is gone. After next year more than 57 mil of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke clear.

MLB's postseason awards will be doled out over the next couple weeks but for the first time in years the Astros don't have a credible candidate for any of the big ones (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year). The Astros do have three American League Gold Glove finalists. I think Carlos Correa wins the shortstop honor. Correa had a weak regular season at the plate but his defense was stellar, plus the two guys who divvied up the last four AL SS Gold Gloves (Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons) had down seasons and aren't finalists. Quick: name the teams of fellow finalists J.P. Crawford and Niko Goodrum. Hard to see either winning over Correa. Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker were also named top three at their positions. For the first time the finalist selections were driven entirely by stats and analytics.

Big week for the Rockets

With the Rockets settling on Stephen Silas as their new Head Coach, that hire coupled with the in house promotion of Rafael Stone to General Manager makes it appear as though owner Tilman Fertitta is doing more things on the cheap. The NBA economic environment is challenging and huge portions of the rest of Fertitta's portfolio are submerged in a COVID-driven bloodbath. Silas has paid his dues for a good while and most recently worked under the outstanding Rick Carlisle in Dallas. He has earned a lead chair opportunity. But with no prior head coaching experience and no bidding war for his services, Silas signs on at a much lower rate than, say, Jeff Van Gundy would have commanded. Former head coaches (and former Rockets' player rivals of the 90s) Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan would make for two strong Silas assistants. From their playing days if you combined Hornacek's offense and McMillan's defense into one player you'd have one of the top 20 or so greatest guards in NBA history.

Silas and Stone take the reins at a challenging time for the Rockets with their messy salary cap sheet, reduced draft capital, and one of the oldest core player groups in the league. Polite public statements aside, it's part of why Daryl Morey left. Maybe Mike D'Antoni too though that seemed more about feeling disrespected by the lack of a contract extension before this past season. D'Antoni may have overplayed his hand since he did not get fill any of the coaching vacancies elsewhere in the NBA. Only Oklahoma City remains open, and D'Antoni has gotten no run there.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It seems sadly appropriate that the first meaningful positive in the Texans' 2020 season came in form of a COVID test result.

2. If we all commit to getting through it together, I think we can get by without a Texans' game this weekend. Remember, it's their open week, not a bye!

3. One hit wonder goodbye songs: Bronze-Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun" Silver-Norman Greenbaum "Spirit In The Sky" Gold-Steam "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

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