A veteran of 13 NCAA Tournaments, former Houston Rockets assistant coach and longtime college veteran Kelvin Sampson joined the University of Houston Men's Basketball program as its head coach on April 3, 2014.
Sampson became the ninth head coach in the history of the Houston program. As a 27-year head coaching veteran at Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington State and Montana Tech, Sampson has compiled a 535-299 record during his career. He has led his teams to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, including 11 in 12 years with the Sooners from 1994 to 2006. During his Oklahoma tenure, he guided the Sooners to 10 consecutive 20-win seasons, the 1999 Sweet 16, the 2002 Final Four and an Elite Eight appearance in 2003.
In his career, he has led three different schools to NCAA Tournament appearances and been named a National Coach of the Year twice. Sampson has received four conference Coach of the Year awards from three different leagues and guided every program he has led to multiple 20-win seasons during his stints.
The Cougars enjoyed tremendous success under Sampson's leadership during the 2015-16 season. Picked to finish seventh in the coaches' preseason poll, the Cougars tied for third in the American Athletic Conference and played as the No. 2 seed at the American Championship.
Sampson led the Cougars to 22 wins for only the 15th time in program history with a win over No. 12 SMU inside Hofheinz Pavilion. After a tremendous regular season, the Cougars earned their first bid to the NIT for the first time since 2006.
Excitement about Sampson and his program continued to build throughout the season. In December, the Cougars knocked off LSU 105-98 in overtime in in front of 7,918 fans inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
It was the largest home crowd to watch the Cougars play since 8,918 fans saw Jan. 30, 2008. Forward Devonta Pollard was named to the All-American Athletic Conference Second Team, while guard Damyean Dotson earned Honorable Mention. Point guard Galen Robinson, Jr., was named to the league's All-Rookie Team.
During his first season at Houston in 2014-15, Sampson and his staff were forced to move quickly after joining the program in April. Despite the brief introduction, Sampson guided the Cougars to 13 wins, including a 70-68 victory against defending national champion UConn in Hofheinz Pavilion. Although the Cougars were forced to overcome injuries to multiple players at times, Houston finished the regular season as winners of its last three games and posted the American Athletic Conference Championships' lone First-Round upset with a 66-60 win against Tulane.
Under Sampson's leadership, the Cougars opened the season with wins in five of their first six games and claimed a dominating 82-69 win over Big 12 member Texas Tech during the final day of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic Championship Round.
His student-athletes also enjoyed success off the court. Forward Mikhail McLean was named to the American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team and later received his master's degree in health education, while guard LeRon Barnes earned his bachelor's degree.
During the season, the Cougars were active in their community, passing out Thanksgiving lunches to Star of Hope Mission residents and leading a Texas Special Olympics event inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
IN THE NBA
Sampson joins the Cougars after spending the previous six seasons as an assistant coach in the NBA with the Houston Rockets (2011-14) and the Milwaukee Bucks (2008-11). During the 2012-13 season, he served as the Rockets' acting head coach during coach Kevin McHale's leave of absence and recorded a 7-6 mark.
In his first season with the Rockets, Houston lowered its points allowed from 103.7 points per game in 2010-11 to 97.9 in 2011-12. As an assistant with the Bucks, he was member of a staff that oversaw Milwaukee's defense rise from 15th in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions in 2008-09 to second in 2009-10 and fourth in 2010-11.
IN THE COLLEGE RANKS
Sampson enjoyed tremendous success as the leader of Oklahoma Men's Basketball from 1994 to 2006. He led the Sooners to the postseason every year of his tenure with NCAA Tournament appearances during each of his first nine seasons. That run was highlighted by a trip to the NCAA Final Four in 2002 and an appearance in the Elite Eight one year later.
Oklahoma earned a share of the 2005 Big 12 Conference regular-season title, captured three consecutive Big 12 Tournament championships from 2001 to 2003 and posted at least 20 wins during each of his final 10 seasons.
He left Oklahoma to become Indiana's head coach in 2006 and guided the Hoosiers to the 2007 NCAA Tournament and a pair of 20-wins seasons before resigning late in the 2008 season.
Sampson entered the NCAA Division I ranks as head coach at Washington State from 1987 to 1994. He compiled a 103-103 record and led the Cougars to postseason appearances in two of his final three seasons, including an NCAA Tournament berth in 1994. Leading the Cougars to the 1992 NIT, Sampson guided Washington State to its first postseason appearance since 1983.
Sampson began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1979-80 before moving to Montana Tech as an assistant coach in 1980. One year later, he became Montana Tech's head coach, leading the Orediggers to a 73-45 record, including three straight 22-win seasons during each of his final three years there.
He led Montana Tech to a pair of NAIA District 12 title games and was named the Frontier Conference Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1983, In the three years prior to his arrival, Montana Tech had won a combined 17 games.
Sampson also built an impressive resume at the international level. In the summer of 1995, he served as the head coach of the United States Junior National Team that competed during the Junior World Games in Athens, Greece. Leading a team of college freshmen and high schoolers, his squad posted a 4-4 record against the more experienced international competition.
Sampson was selected as an assistant coach at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia during the summer of 1994. That team earned a bronze medal and competed against USA Basketball's Dream Team II following the games.
In 1993, Sampson was selected head coach of the West team at the U.S. Olympic Festival in San Antonio, Texas, and led his team to the silver medal.
Most recently, he served as an assistant coach for the 2012 Canadian National Team.
Sampson was born in Laurinburg, N.C., where he was an award-winning student-athlete at Pembroke High and later at UNC Pembroke. Playing for his father John W. "Ned" Sampson, he captained his high school basketball team for two years. He also competed as quarterback for the football team and catcher/outfielder for the baseball team.
Sampson earned a combined nine varsity letters and was an All-Three Rivers Conference selection in each of the three sports in 1973-74.
While at UNC Pembroke, Sampson focused on basketball and baseball. As a point guard, he led the Braves as team captain during his senior season and finished his collegiate career with four letters in basketball and three in baseball.
Off the court/field, he earned Dean's List recognition and was awarded the Gregory Lowe Memorial Award as the school's outstanding physical education major during his senior year.
Sampson received bachelor's degrees in health and physical education and political science from UNC Pembroke in 1978. He earned his master's degree in coaching and administration at Michigan State in 1980 after serving during the 1979-80 season as a graduate assistant under Jud Heathcoate. He then moved to Montana Tech after being named assistant coach.
He was inducted into the Montana Tech Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the UNC Pembroke Athletic Hall of Fame in February 1998.
Sampson and his wife, Karen, have a daughter, Lauren, and a son, Kellen.