Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson will interview for a trio of vacant head coaching positions in the coming weeks, including with the Milwaukee Bucks. Currently serving under Kevin McHale in Houston, Sampson got the go-ahead from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey on Monday to accept invitations from the Bucks, the Philadelphia 76ers, and Charlotte. The move is the first from all three teams in an off-season effort to revamp their organizations, as a number of staff and coaching changes are expected in the coming months.
The first person to be publicly considered for the job since the team refused to renew a relationship with interim head coach Jim Boylan last week, Sampson is a familiar face to some in Milwaukee. Scott Skiles hired him for his first assistant position in the professionals in 2008. He remained in Milwaukee for three seasons before signing a contract with the Rockets in early 2011. His only other experience in the NBA was as an advisory for the Spurs in early 2008.
Despite Sampson's limited time in the professional ranks, his resume is otherwise extensive. The 57 year old North Carolina native spent nearly thirty years at the helm of four different colleges starting in the early eighties. Debuting at Montana Tech in 1981, Sampson managed to win 496 games before a recruitment scandal in 2008 cost him his job at Indiana. He had lost just fifteen games in two seasons with the Hoosiers by that time, on track to mimic the 279-109 record he posted while at Oklahoma between 1994 and 2006. He led the Sooners to 11 NCAA tournaments during that time, though a 2002 final four appearance was their best showing.
Sampson has also been selected to head multiple international teams representing the United States throughout his career, as well as the 2012 Canadian national team.
Along with his past coaching accomplishments, Sampson's dealings during a controversial and heavily investigated period starting in 2003 will likely be discussed with the Bucks. President of the National Association of Basketball Coaches that year, Sampson came under-fire for making over 500 impermissible contacts with Oklahoma prospects, violating recruitment rules. The NCAA imposed a one-year ban on off-campus and telephone recruitment by Sampson starting in 2006. He avoided any more trouble until October 2007, when he was found to have ignored the NCAA sanctions on his recruitment abilities during his inaugural season at Indiana. The league further punished Sampson with a show-cause order, which effectively black-lists coaches from positions in the NCAA.
Jennings Likes Sampson
Skiles saw beyond the mistakes, however, and Sampson's previous tenure in Milwaukee could be a valuable bargaining chip during negotiations. Star point guard Brandon Jennings built a lasting relationship with Sampson in his rookie season with the Bucks. Currently a restricted free-agent, Jennings reportedly was put-off by the coaching styles of both Skiles and Boylan. Should Milwaukee wish to retain him, hiring Sampson could be a major enticement.
Fired from Portland in 2012, Nate McMillan is also said to have been asked to interview with the Bucks. A 12-year veteran of the league, McMillan led the Seattle SuperSonics to their final postseason as an organization in 2005. He signed with the Trailblazers that off-season, and managed three playoff appearances with them before being let-go mid-way through 2011.