University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson is always teaching no matter how big the moment. Here, he tells DeJon Jarreau what he doesn't want to hear. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson shows off the spoils of cutting down the net. If the Cougars can beat Cincinnati on Sunday in Memphis, they'll get to do it again. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Kelvin Sampson's Houston team prides itself on contesting every shot. Nate Hinton will jump to make it happen. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
University of Houston forward Brison Gresham seems to pop off the bench blocking shots. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
DeJon Jarreau's ability to get to the rim figures to only become more important for the University of Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sitting in a folding chair in front of a locker, the tears still not dry on his face, Fabian White Jr. swears he is not concerned about the future of University of Houston basketball. He’s not even considering the notion that head coach Kelvin Sampson could leave for the bright lights of the SEC — or anywhere else.
Not after hearing his coach behind closed doors this week.
“No, I’m not worried at all,” White tells PaperCity. “I trust my coach. He ain’t going nowhere.”
With an $18 million, six year offer on the table to stay at Houston, the 63-year-old Sampson holds his future in his hands. SEC school Arkansas and former UH athletic director Hunter Yurachek want him — and the Razorbacks (Bill Clinton’s favorite college basketball team) aren’t likely to be the only Power 5 program that comes calling.
Still after the heartbreak of Kentucky 62, Houston 58 in one of the best games of the entire NCAA Tournament, after a dramatic second half comeback that saw the Cougars outscore the Wildcats 25-12 to open the half, the Houston players who are returning are convinced no coaching heartbreak will follow.
“I trust our coach,” freshman forward Nate Hinton, the four star recruit that UH could be partially built around next season, tells PaperCity. “He’s going to be here with us.”
After the game, in a Houston locker room not yet open to the media, Sampson tells the underclassmen to remember this feeling, according to several players He tells the Whites, Hintons and DeJon Jarreaus of the room that this is their time.
Sampson did not address his future with reporters after the game. He didn’t have a chance to talk about much in the the wake of the whirlwind end of the season. His podium press conference only included three questions.
For his players, there is no doubt about Sampson’s future, though. Houston fans may be stressing about the possibility of losing the unique basketball lifer who orchestrated one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college basketball history. UH’s billionaire super backer Tilman Fertitta may not be completely sure.
But Kelvin Sampson’s players are. To them, there is only certainty. In their telling, it’s 100 percent that Sampson is going to be their coach next season.