April 3, 2014
HOUSTON VICE PRESIDENT OF INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS MACK RHOADES
"Welcome. This is a great day in the history of the University of Houston men's basketball program. Somebody told me, and I want to assure this did not come from me, but somebody told me it's not raining outside today. Those were tears of the other coaches of the (American Athletic Conference) knowing that we just hired Kelvin Sampson.
"Obviously, in order to make this happen, there are so many people to thank and to recognize and I'd like to do that first, before we bring up our new head coach. Certainly it starts at the top with our dynamic chancellor president Dr. Renu Khator. Thank you. And our chairman of the Board of Regents, Jarvis Hollingsworth. Regent Hollingsworth and Dr. Khator were phenomenal and so supportive throughout this entire process.
"We also have some other regents here today that I'd like to recognize. Regent Mendoza, Regent Taaffe, and Regent Wells, and I'm not done with the regents because we have some former regents here. I'd like to recognize former regent Lynden Rose. I'm not sure that he's made it yet, but I believe former regent Leroy Hermes is coming. And then, not to catch him off guard, walking down the steps is former regent Beau Smith is here with us.
"The person that runs my life and runs our house, my wife, Amy, is here. For the record, I would come home late every night and (my wife, Amy) would ask me about the various candidates and from the very beginning Kelvin Sampson was her first choice. So, the search was over at that point in time.
"We have a member of the Houston Rockets organization, and before I ask him to stand, I'd certainly like to thank the Houston Rockets organization for their cooperation and their support. The owner, Mr. Alexander, CEO Thad Brown and I'm going to ask the GM Daryl Morey to stand up who is here with us today. Daryl, you have done a fantastic job along with Coach Kevin McHale and I want to thank Coach McHale for his support as well.
"It is a great time for Houston Athletics. So many wonderful things are happening. We have a football program that just competed in a bowl game with a true freshman at quarterback and very, very young team. We have a softball team that has made three straight NCAA appearances, well on their way to their fourth and just on the fringe of being ranked in the top 25. We have a baseball team right now that is ranked, in two polls, 10th in the country. We have a tennis program that has been ranked as high as 21st recently, and well on their way to NCAA postseason competition. Our men's indoor track and field team was ranked as high as 23rd this year. Coach Burrell, although you're not here, its time to admit that your son is much faster than you are. And finally, we have a men's golf program that is ranked seventh in the country, as we speak. So the state of UH Athletics is moving and is on the rise. And that's just a great thank you to everyone that is here and present at this press conference.
"Just some of the things we are working on as a department. Some significant moments for this athletic department. Membership in the American Athletic Conference. And let me remind you, in its first year we had a football program win a BCS bowl game and we have a men's and women's team, respectively, in their own final fours. So it is a great conference. We have a new stadium coming along that will open up in August. We have new practice fields, locker rooms, meeting rooms, a Dave Williams Golf Center, brand new baseball field, softball locker rooms, fundraising for an outdoor track, and then also the announcement of a brand new tennis center and a partnership with the Zina Garrison Academy. We've had the best ever, over the last six semesters, the best academic performance we've ever had in the history of UH Athletics.
"And finally we have run our program with great integrity and will continue to do that moving forward. What's the next step for us? The next step for us is to regain our prominence in men's basketball. We all know that we have a long storied tradition. Three of the best all-time players to ever play the game; Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes, all the other greats. We have a hall of fame coach, Guy V. Lewis. We have a $20 million dollar, 50,000-square foot practice facility that will break ground in May. And shortly there after, we will begin work on Hofheinz Pavilion. And finally, the most important piece, we have a collection of great and talented young men to move this program forward starting next year; our players.
"I want to take the time to thank Coach Dickey for the shape that he left this program in. He left it in tremendous shape for Coach Sampson and I know that Coach is watching because he cares and I know that he is excited about Coach Kelvin Sampson being our next head coach.
"But what else do we need? We need fans in these stands, in this arena. You cant be a fan at home. You have to be at this arena. And we need our fans to come out and support our young men and coach Sampson and our staff. And finally, we need a great head coach. Somebody that will develop our young men both on and off the floor, and not compromise one bit.
"My first meeting with Coach Sampson, he was gracious, he was sincere, he was transparent and we talked about everything and it was a great first meeting. We had additional great meetings and phone conversations. We also spoke with so many others that had been affiliated with Coach Sampson, other institutions, NCAA, and all of their remarks were positive. I know, we know, Kelvin Sampson is a great coach. But more importantly, Coach Kelvin Sampson is a great person who made some mistakes, violated some NCAA rules, and he admitted those mistakes. And he took full responsibility for those mistakes. And he was remorseful and paid his dues for those mistakes. Coach Sampson is committed to leading a first class program. We call it building champions for life. Best of all, Here is what I know, Kelvin Sampson is our new basketball coach. Can you please stand and help me welcome Coach Kelvin Sampson, his wife Karen and their two children Lauren and Kellen."
HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
"Before I go any further I want to say this. Mistakes were made; lessons were learned. Although I don't agree with all the conclusions the NCAA made, I respect the NCAA as an institution. The head coach is responsible for his program. I will be responsible for our staff at the University of Houston. Compliance will be a higher priority and our staff will understand that. I appreciate the opportunity to be here and the opportunity to be head coach.
"There are some people I'd like to thank, but first I'd like to introduce my wife, Karen, my daughter, Lauren, and the newest member of our coaching staff, Kellen Sampson. Also, I'd like to thank some people who are very dear to me. R.C. Buford, general manager of the San Antonio Spurs; Gregg Popovich, who I had a 45 minute conversation with yesterday afternoon; John Hammond, general manager for the Milwaukee Bucks and Scott Skiles, former coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.
"Like Mack, I'd like to thank Mr. Alexander, Thad Brown especially Daryl Morey. Daryl was all of our bosses but the atmosphere he creates, we're all in a partnership to make the Houston Rockets the best we could. The fact that James (Harden) and Pat (Beverley)... I think it tells you the kind of person James is, his assistant coach, the guy that probably works the most closely with him is having a press conference. He's a NBA All-Star and he's here at the press conference. That's all you need to know about James Harden.
"When people ask why go back to college when you have one of the best non-head coaching jobs in the NBA is, for me, real simple. I like being the head coach. I loved working with Kevin McHale who I think has an unbelievable job with the Rockets and their entire staff. But I think I'm geared to be a head coach and run my program. I have strong beliefs, what I think is important and the way we play. Some things are non-negotiable and it starts with your attitude and your effort. Those things are non-negotiable. Teaching kids the difference between playing hard and competing, another thing that's non-negotiable. And we play to win. Every program that our family has been at, we've found a way to win and I think it starts with a partnership.
"President Khator and Mack Rhoades are two of the best visionaries I have been around in college athletics. They have a clear idea of where they want to take this institution. Not just athletically, but listening to Dr. Khator go on and on about all the great things going on in academia and in the university. You get excited about that. You're a basketball coach but you're part of that university family and I just want to be apart of the family.
"I'm excited to be back. I'm excited to get back on the court. I think we actually have a little scrimmage today maybe. Its been a while since I've been in college so I had to get acclimated to some of the new rules but I found out you can actually work out two hours a week and I heard we had an hour and a half left. I'm excited to be the head coach at the University of Houston and I do want to reiterate what Mack said about James Dickey. I met with the team today around noon, high character kids, they want to win. I looked at all their academic records. They're all in good shape, academically and I'd like to think that's a testament to James and his staff.
"I wanted to thank everyone for coming out today and Go Coogs."
On what it meant to have James Harden & Patrick Beverley at the press conference
"I love those guys. When you're in the NBA together through the course of an 82-game season, you have so many peaks and battles. I have a great relationship with all the players, but Pat and I clicked because of his toughness and his ability to lead through how hard-nosed he is and his background. And James is the most humble superstar I've been around. You can challenge James, you can get on him, he responds. I'm not going to get on these guys any harder than I got on James. If getting better is important to you, that guy right there is a great role model."
On the ability to have athletes want play hard for him
"I don't believe in the word overachieve. I believe God gave us all a certain ability and if we maximize our ability, we didn't overachieve we just maximized what God gave us. But you get kids to do things for you because they trust you. That starts with building relationships. Basketball coaches are allowed to get on guys because they trust them. They know that you have their best interest at heart.
One of the first things I do when I sit down with a young man is find out what his dreams and goals are. Then those become my dreams and goals. I'm charged with helping him reach those. Sometimes I have to be honest with him and tell him what he needs to hear. I gain their trust by being honest with them and getting them to know the difference between playing hard and competing. We're going to play hard and compete.
How good we'll be, I don't know. I haven't ran them through any type of workout yet. I watch them play against SMU in the conference tournament and I was really, really impressed so I know there's talent there. The key is to get it out of them 35 times a year versus a couple times every two weeks."
ADDITIONAL QUOTES FROM STANDUP INTERVIEWS
HOUSTON VICE PRESIDENT for INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS MACK RHOADES
"I started the press conference by saying it's a great day. Anytime you hire someone of Kelvin's stature and caliber, it's a terrific day and again I want to reiterate that it's not just about Kelvin Sampson the coach... it's about Kelvin Sampson the person. Everybody we talked to, in our multiple visits, said he was a great guy, and we really enjoyed the time that we were able to spend before we announced him as our head coach."
On hiring Sampson and NCAA sanctions
"If people didn't expect him to coach in college again, that was because they expected him to be a head coach in the NBA. His love, deep down, is working with college kids, developing young men, and all his former player that we talked to talked about that; they talked about Kelvin Sampson the man, the coach, the father, the husband. I think he missed that, and it was just one of those cases where it was a perfect match. We hit it off, and he believed in what we are trying to get done here as a university."
"He was completely honest, candid, transparent, remorseful ; he knew that he made mistakes, and we've got great comfort for Kelvin Sampson being the head coach. We're excited about it."
On the coaching hire
"Because of the circumstances, it dictates a different type of vetting, but you can ask anybody in my career that has joined me in terms of a search process with any head coach, it's a journey. We're pretty meticulous; we talk to everybody. Whether it was this process or when we hired Tony Levine, when we hired Todd Whitting, in all of those searches, we want to make sure we get the right person, the right fit for our institution."
On comfort with Coach Sampson
"On thoroughness on a scale of one to 10, I'd like to think that it is a 10. We talked to people throughout the country, people at all various institutions that he worked, and we heard nothing but positive comments, positive remarks. More than that it was the conversations with Kelvin Sampson and his sincerity, his candidness, his transparency and his admitting that he made mistakes. Those are certainly something that he wasn't proud of and, he understood that it impacted a lot of different people and. He's committed to showing people that he can lead a first-class program but not just lead any program. He wanted to lead this program."
On hiring a coach who has been surrounded by great coaching and superstar players
"It's huge, and it's unbelievably exciting. We all know what a great coach he was in college, but he is a better coach now with his time in the NBA, the offensive concepts and all those things. Learning from great coaches, he is a true student of the game. Coach Sampson continues and has a sensational appetite to continue to learn and get better, and the six years in the NBA have served him well."
HOUSTON HEAD COACH Kelvin Sampson
On where this job stacks up compared to others
"I wanted to go to a college that had room for growth and could grow. There are some schools that are where they are. It's like a basketball team with no ceiling. If you start playing your best basketball in November and December, you usually don't get a whole lot better. The University of Houston has a lot of room to grow, especially in men's basketball. Facilities, the arena, the fan support all those are going to grow. That excites me."
On what you can bring to this program
"Someone that is proven and that is a system that works. I have a clear understanding of how I want my team to play at both ends of the floor. When you ask someone about their philosophy it's real simple. Close your eyes and visualize how you want your team to look, then put it in writing. My philosophy has always been that. Offensively we're going to play with pace and space. Defensively we're going to protect the paint and pressure the ball. We're going to hold teams to one shot as much as possible. We're going to get the ball out at the other end and score as quickly as we can."
On his relationship with players when NBA players come to his press conference
"With the guys I've coached at the (Houston) Rockets, I've always been honest with them. I push them; I don't always tell them what they want to hear. Sometimes, kids live in a world where everyone is telling them something, adulation or whatever. I'm not interested in any of that. My job is to make them better. James (Harden) and Pat Beverley are standing in the back right now. That easily could have been Chandler (Parsons) or Jeremy (Lin) or Dwight, (Howard) or Isaiah Cannan I have a great relationship with all of our guys.
On if you expected to coach again in college
"I didn't know if I wanted to coach again in college. The question shouldn't be whether I expected to coach again in college. It should be did I want to or not, especially with the six years I spent in the NBA. I enjoyed every minute of it. I fully expected to be back with the Rockets as late as March 1. I was excited about what we were doing; it wasn't easy. We were in a playoff hunt. Obviously, Mack (Rhoades) and Dr. (Renu) Khator have something going here with the opportunity to be the head coach of a team with so much growth here in Houston. It took something special like this to leave the NBA."
On why being a head coach is so important to you
"I've been lucky in my career. Sometimes when opportunity meets luck you can create some good things. I became a head coach in college when I was 25 years old. I was a head coach at a major college when I was 31. That's all I knew, and my first job I didn't have assistant coaches. Until football was over I didn't have a trainer. I'm so appreciative for being in the NBA for six years.
It was neat for me to see someone else do it. I've never seen another college coach practice. Pop (Gregg Popovich) and I were great friends. I would take my Oklahoma staff down to San Antonio for training camp, and it was the only other time I saw another coach practice. My daughter was working at the College of Charleston, and the New York Knicks had training camp there. When Larry Brown was the coach I would go, and visit him and see her at the same time, but other than that, my ideas were my ideas. I would watch teams on television just like everyone else, and take something I liked maybe.
To be on a staff with assistant responsibilities, it's going to make me work better with my assistants. I've always been tough on assistants and players, but after watching Kevin (McHale) deal with his staff, there's so many things I've learned."