Culture / Sporting Life

Kelvin Sampson’s Rising Star Assistant Coaches Stick With Him at Houston, Creating One of the Most Remarkable Stories In Sports

A Model of Continuity and Staying Power In a College Athletics World Where Everything Else Is Always Changing

BY // 06.24.24

In a college athletics world that is more topsy-turvy than it’s ever been in history, one that sees the University of Houston fire its blue-uniform-obsessed athletic director Chris Pezman on a random summer Thursday, the staying power of Kelvin Sampson’s own UH staff is one remarkable beacon of consistency. This Sampson staff stays together, serving as the bedrock foundation of one of the best programs in America.

Sampson’s son Kellen, the assistant and future head coach in waiting, has been at his dad’s side for 10 seasons on Cullen Boulevard. Associate head coach Quannas White has been on the staff since the breakthrough 2017-18 season. Special assistant Hollis Price also has been part of the Houston staff for a full decade. Assistant coach K.C. Beard is another one who’s been there with Kelvin Sampson for the full 10 year ride. Athletic trainer John Houston, a fixture at Houston before Sampson even arrived, is also a 10 yearer with Kelvin. Director of men’s basketball sports performance Alan Bishop has been helping shape the program since the 2017-18 season. Director for basketball operations Lauren Sampson who impacts a bit of everything, often serving as the program’s glue, joined on in 2016. Director of program strategy and player relations Bilal Batley, a former student manager for Sampson at Oklahoma, has been with the program since 2017. Director of operations and basketball strategy Bobby Champagne, a longtime coaching veteran and Sampson ally/sounding board, and director of player development Anthony Goldwire are the two “newcomers,” having come on in 2021. Even first year graduate assistant Ryan Elvin just finished a beloved UH playing career.

That is a lot of continuity. In a college sports era in which everything seems to always be changing, Kelvin Sampson’s staff sticks around.

“It’s unique,” White tells PaperCity of the staff sticking together. “We have a really special thing going on over here, man. Winning 30 plus games I think the last four years. That’s unheard of. All the compliments we get when we go on the road. We know what we have here.

“And then we all love each other. Nothing’s better than coming into this facility (Fertitta) or the practice facility and developing our guys. . . We’re seeing everything that’s coming into fruition from all the work that we’ve put in. And it’s a beautiful thing.”

Houston has the most overall wins in all of college basketball since 2020, ahead of Gonzaga, Purdue, UConn and Kansas. Sampson’s program has produced three first round NBA Draft picks since 2021 (Quentin Grimes, Jarace Walker and Marcus Sasser). The staff Kelvin Sampson has assembled — and most importantly, kept around — has powered all that. Made it possible.

To Quannas White, the reason they all stay is simple. The mission at Houston is not done yet.

“We haven’t yet reached our ultimate goal,” White says. “That’s a huge reason why that we all come back. We all want to see Coach go out all the way on top. With a national championship.”

University of Houston Cougars beat the Penn Quakers at the Fertitta Center, Saturday December 13, 2023
University of Houston assistant coach Kellen Sampson brings plenty of intensity. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Kelvin Sampson appreciates his assistants sticking around, but would tell you it’s about much more than just him. Or the quest for a national title. When I ask him about the staff, this basketball lifer of a coach talks about the daily meetings, the spirited (and often ultra intense basketball debates) and the learning that comes from pushing each other.

“I love to give our guys the freedom to be who they are,” Sampson says. “To have confidence in themselves. So one day when they’re sitting in my seat, they’ll be able to do that with their staffs. But part of my growth as a head coach is I didn’t have a head coach to work for. I was a head coach at 25. . . I never had a chance to work for another head coach. I had to make more mistakes than probably should be allowed.

“And these guys will be much better head coaches than I ever was. Because they’ve had the advantage of learning from each other too. And I learn from them. I love sitting in meetings with them. I love listening to them debate, argue, damn near fight sometimes.

“But we take it on the floor. We work through it. Throw a couple of eggs in there, put it in the blender and go to work.”

“We haven’t yet reached our ultimate goal. That’s a huge reason why that we all come back. We all want to see Coach go out all the way on top. With a national championship.” — UH associate head coach Quannas White

In the Lab With Kelvin Sampson

Kelvin Sampson’s University of Houston staff is a working laboratory of future head coaches. Kellen Sampson is UH basketball’s head coach in waiting, set to become head coach once his dad steps away by contract. Quannas White, K.C. Beard, Hollis Price and even the young Goldwire are all on head coaching tracks.

“Absolutely,” White says when I ask him if he wants to be a head coach in the future. “That’s my ultimate goal. And I’m more than ready.

“I’ve learned from the very best to do it.”

White and Price both received head coaching offers this offseason. They both turned those chances down. To stay with Sampson at Houston. To keep this rare version of basketball paradise, this coaching laboratory of excellence, going. To keep driving for that national title for the man they all call Coach.

All of these skilled coaches staying with Sampson for so long at Houston is a testament to how the head man treats them too. Kelvin Sampson may be one of the single most demanding bosses in America. But there is a lot of love behind those barking demands — and a lot of respect for how every longtime assistant helps lift the program.

Kelvin Sampson does not ask his son, White, Price and Beard to stay. But they do.

University of Houston Cougars men’s basketball team defeated the Memphis Tigers at the Fertitta Center
University of Houston assistant coach Quannas White did plenty of work with UH point guard Jamal Shead. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

“I don’t ever offer advice,” Sampson says of his assistant coaches getting job offers. “Ever. If they want my advice, they’ll ask. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. They think it through.

“I think that’s been part of our secret sauce (having the staff stay intact). I love Mondays and Tuesdays around here this time of year. I probably like Thursdays and Fridays better. . . I didn’t give Kellen his development plan. That’s his plan, He deserves the credit for that. Not me. K.C. and Hollis what they’re doing in their development area. Quannas. Goldie. What they’re doing in their development area.”

What they are doing for now is staying with Kelvin Sampson, keeping one of sports’ most remarkable visions of continuity and consistency humming right along.


No outlet covers UH basketball throughout the entire calendar year with more consistency and focus than PaperCity Houston. For more of Chris Baldwin’s extensive, detailed and unique insider coverage of UH sports — stories you cannot read anywhere else — bookmark this page. Follow Baldwin on the platform formerly known as Twitter here.