The Orlando Magic are reportedly targeting Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson to be their next head coach, according to a report from Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Missing the NBA Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, the Magic parted ways with former head coach Frank Vogel earlier this offseason. Sampson is reportedly the team’s top target.
No team has kept its coaching search quieter than Orlando, but there is a growing belief among league insiders gathered in Chicago this week that University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson has emerged as the Magic's prime target
The 62-year-old Sampson has aided in a recent resurgence at the University of Houston as he led the Cougars to the second round of the 2018 NCAA tournament — the program’s first March Madness appearance in eight years. A former college head coach at Montana Tech, Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana before his recent four-year tenure at Houston, Sampson also has some NBA experience as an assistant coach.
While Sampson was serving a five-year show cause for NCAA violations during his time at Indiana, he coached for three seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and three seasons with the Houston Rockets. Although Sampson has never been a head coach at the NBA level, he has connections with the Magic’s front office as President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond both worked for the Bucks while Sampson was there under head coach Scott Skiles.
Although Sampson has some very successful rebuilds at the college level, having to rebuild an NBA team as a first-time head coach would be a very difficult task. But, as Stein and many others have noted, the Magic have also been very mysterious about this coaching search. All of the Sampson chatter could be misdirection, for all we know.
A handful of college coaches have recently made the jump to the NBA — most notably Brad Stevens (Butler to Boston) and Billy Donovan (Florida to Oklahoma City) — but both of those coaches were significantly younger than Sampson was when they were hired. If the Magic are serious about Sampson, it would be a very bold choice given his age and lack of NBA experience.
Houston lands commitment from three-star shooting guard
Saturday afternoon Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson landed his first verbal commitment in the Class of 2016, as 6-foot-4 shooting guard Armoni Brooks announced that he’ll be a Cougar via his Twitter account. Brooks, who’s from Round Rock, Texas, made the decision to remain in his home state while officially visiting the American Athletic Conference program.
His decision comes despite having visits scheduled for Kansas State (September 10) and Creighton (September 16) over the next two weekends in September.
As a junior at McNeil HS, Brooks was a first team Region II all-region selection by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, and he played his grassroots basketball for the THP Elite program.
Brooks’ commitment gives Houston additional depth at a position where they’ll lose two seniors at the end of the 2015-16 season in LeRon Barnes and Eric Weary Jr., and the presence of redshirt junior Damyean Dotson will help Houston’s newest commit with his adjustment to the college game.
Video credit: TexasHoops Television
Houston starting point guard likely to make season debut this weekend
Under first-year head coach Kelvin Sampson, Houston is off to a 4-1 start on the season and the Cougars will get a big boost as starting point guard L.J. Rose is expected to return this weekend following a broken foot. Sampson told CBSSports.com‘s Jon Rothstein that Rose is expected to debut on Saturday against South Carolina State.
The 6-foot-4 junior’s return should be a nice addition for Houston. The pass-first point averaged 8.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore and should make the Cougars’ other players better by getting them open looks. The former Baylor transfer had been replaced in the lineup by Cavon Baker, who filled in admirably early this season coming from the junior-college ranks.
Now the question becomes how Rose’s addition changes Houston’s rotation? Sampson currently has seven players averaging at least 20 minutes per game and Rose will obviously take a large chunk of minutes away from some of those players. This is a “good” problem to have though and with the American Athletic Conference looking wide open early in the season, Rose’s return could give Houston a chance to be a conference contender.
New Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson relied heavily on junior college transfers to rebuild the Cougar roster this spring when he took over the job. One of those key junior college signees was guard Torian Graham, a former N.C. State signee out of high school who ended up at Chipola College in Florida after not being cleared by the NCAA.
Graham did not play in Houston’s season opener against Murray State and is opting to leave the program for personal reasons.
“Though disappointed with his decision, I enjoyed working with Torian and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Sampson said to Duarte.
The 6-foot-4 Graham averaged 12.4 points per game at Chipola last season and was a highly-regarded prospect out of high school. Rivals regarded Graham as a four-star prospect out of high school and he was rated as the No. 67 overall player in the 2012 class.
Graham is a native of Durham, NC and could opt to play closer to home. Although Houston could have used Graham’s athleticism and scoring punch in its back court this season, it’s probably best to allow him to leave if he doesn’t want to be there before the season truly gets rolling.
A 6-foot-9 forward from Paris Junior College in Texas, Dupree was originally committed to Arkansas State out of high school before going the junior college route. Dupree committed to Houston while on an official visit to campus this weekend.
Dupree only played 10.3 minutes a game last season and averaged 3.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, but had a good enough summer to garner high-major interest from multiple programs. Houston is getting a forward that can stretch the floor a bit in Dupree as he knocked down 15 three-pointers last season and can make for a decent perimeter option at the forward.
Sampson hit the junior college ranks hard for Houston’s 2014 class to fill up the roster as the Cougars landed six junior college players for Sampson’s first season at the helm.
Days after losing its two top scorers to transfers, Houston scored a commitment from a former top 100 recruit on Sunday morning.
Torian Graham, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from the Class of 2012 who spent the past two seasons at Chipola Junior College (Fla.), announced via Twitter that he had signed with Houston.
Graham had twice committed and decommitted from NC State. After not being cleared by the NCAA in October of 2012, he enrolled at Chipola. He averaged 12.9 points per game, only appearing in 15 games this past season. He played on a team with future UConn guard Sam Cassell Jr. and power forward Cinmeon Bowers, who commited to Auburn last Sunday.
Houston hired Kelvin Sampson as the program’s new head coach on April 2. Within weeks, TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House, who led the Cougars in both scoring and rebounding, requested releases from their scholarships. While adding a shooting guard won’t help the lost production on the frontline, it does give Houston a gifted scorer and a second member of its incoming class along with Yates High (Texas) forward J.C. Washington.
Graham was rated as the No. 67 recruit in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.