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Kelvin Sampson, Riding Durrty From The Jump

February 15, 2008

A repost of an entry from the former/ team blog, Athletes In Action aka Six Star Camp. This one was not written by me, but rather by the mighty MJunior aka the good Reverend Dr. Raycroft, prince of Thoms, and U Mass devotee, who called out the challenges Kelvin Sampson faced from a demanding Indiana alumni group and establishment. IU took a risk on Sampson and wanted wins, not the mediocre edge-og-ncaa-bubble status they “enjoyed” with Mike Davis (AND Bobby Knight, but no one wants to talk about THAT). Well, they have wins. That might be vacated.

Wednesday March 29, 2006

Today, it is expected that Indiana University will name Oklahoma University Head Coach Kelvin Sampson their new men’s basketball coach, replacing the pushed-out…ahem, resigned Mike Davis.

Let’s start with the good. Over Sampson’s 18 year career as a head coach, he has proven to be one of the game’s best. With a career record of 435-248 (.637), Sampson, posted the highest winning percentage in Oklahoma University history (.721). He was named National Coach of the Year twice, in 1995 and 2002. He has won more games in Big 12 Conference tournament play, beating out Roy Williams, and took his OU teams to postseason play each year, including 10 NCAA Tournaments. He has certainly proven his worth.

The problem I have with this move is that Indiana had it in for Coach Davis as soon as Bobby Knight was fired because…well, he was not Coach Knight. Indiana kicked out Mike Davis basically for his lack of success in the postseason regardless of the fact that he made “The Dance” 4 of the 6 seasons.

Granted, other than his Final Four run in 2002, he had limited success in NCAA Tournament play, never making it past the second round again, and for schools steeped in tradition, such as Indiana, it is understandable that they have high standards.

However, will Sampson be the answer? During his 11 seasons as OU head coach, he has an NCAA record of 11-10, which does include one trip to the Final Four (2002) and the Elite Eight (2003). Take away those years, and that leaves a record of 4-8, including 6 tournaments where his Sooners were bounced in the first round (in all but two, they were the favorite.)

In contrast, Mike Davis only lost in the first round once, advancing to the second round twice not including his trip to the Championship game in 2002. Let’s be real here for a moment – this is all number play because the trick is to get to the tourney first and if you can’t do that, the argument is moot. And, with Davis missing the Big Dance 2 of his 6 seasons may stick out like a missing laptop in a UConn locker.

However, Mike Davis subscribes to the John Chaney school of schedule tough non-conference schedules every year, which provides a certain risk of not making the tourney. As I said before, with RPI and the selection committee, a loss to Duke is equal to a loss to Moorehead St. However, this scheduling philosophy does more to prepare your teams for postseason play, as witnessed by Davis losing 1 first round game (or as we call, a “one and done”) in 4 tries, opposed to Sampson’s Sooners losing 6 first round games in 10 trips.

My point is, while Indiana is hiring a top quality coach and expect better results than Mike Davis, will Sampson give his new bosses the results they expect? He better, because he will certainly be on the hot seat right out of the gate if he doesn’t.

According to ESPN’s Andy Katz, Indiana decided to go with a ‘name’ coach, approaching Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Memphis’ John Calipari and Louisville’s Rick Pitino first, who “want no part of Indiana.” At their schools, each coach are saviors, rebuilding (or building in the case of Gonzaga) big programs.

Mike Davis is a great coach, who understands the game and how to teach it. He has proven himself and will make a leader wherever he goes. Indiana administrators and alumni sent the message to Davis because it is tourney wins they want.

If so, maybe they should not have jumped ‘sooner’ rather than later.

Some might say that it takes the extra(legal) mile to bring in the top recruits. Well, Sampson brought the Hoosier nation what it wanted, even if he left a wake of sanctions on his former school, and soon, on Indiana University.

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