Who’s afraid of Kelvin Sampson?

Bucks coach Scott Skiles confirmed this week that he is set to hire Jim Boylan, who was his top assistant in Chicago, and is pursuing Kelvin Sampson, Lionel Hollins and Joe Wolf as his three other assistants.

What’s that, you say? KELVIN SAMPSON – the coach ousted only two months ago from Indiana University? Kelvin Sampson is a terrible person. A cheater. A bad man. A disgraced coach who brushed up against the “moral turpitude” clauses at Basketball U and violated the rules of the honorable NCAA.

Ahhh, the “moral turpitude” of Bobby Knight University and its basketball program may forever be a work in progress. Turpitude, to quote my dictionary, equates to “baseness, vileness, depravity, or any action showing depravity.” The idea of turpitude was, in fact, raised by a lawyer in Indiana trying to figure out how the university could avoid contract liability to Sampson in the event they fired him. They did fire him, of course, and paid him off handsomely, so one can conclude that IU didn’t stand on its “moral turpitude” in dealing with Sampson.

But even that this “moral turpitude” clause was mentioned leads me to believe there are those at Indiana University who are far too sensitive about their coaches in the shadow of Bobby Knight, whose actions as a coach can only be described as inhumane. Baseness indeed. Hypocrites.

And as inviolate as the rules of the NCAA can be at times — is there really any pretense left about moral upright-ness? Pity the hundreds of millions made at the Big Dance and the profits of the Big Ten Network. Nevermind the never-ending rule-bending by coaches and arbitrary enforcement.

So what did Sampson do? It’s complicated, but ESPN ran a comprehensive story about Sampson’s violations back in February.  ESPN.com recapped the NCAA/Indiana investagations more recently in the story about Skiles’ intent to hire Sampson. It’s a bit shorter but packs a good punch.

In a nutshell, Sampson was found to have exceeded phone call limits and contact to recruits 2000-04 at Oklahoma, which led Indiana to place him on probation during his first year as Indiana coach 2006-07. The NCAA could not sanction Indiana for things Sampson did at Oklahoma, but Indiana took to it with gusto. The school shackled Sampson’s telephone usage, banned him from recruiting visits for a year and ratcheted up monitoring of Sampson’s staff. 

Although Sampson was not allowed to make calls,  text messaging was OK. He was in on ten speaker phone conference calls that were also deemed violations. Yeah, it sounds crazy, and it also sounds like Sampson and staff tested to the letter the limits of its probation, operating with a growing bunker mentality.

In October, the school announced that Sampson had violated his probation, having made about a hundred recruiting calls, and the NCAA launched a joint investigation with Indiana investigators this season, finding more violations. How many investigators were working this case?

In the end, Sampson stood accused of failing to create an atmosphere of compliance in running his staff (who also exceeded phone limits) and of the more serious charge of misleading Indiana and NCAA investigators, a charge he denies and has said he will fight.

Indiana’s position has been that the phone usage is “secondary” to the bigger issue of whether Sampson misled NCAA investigators. Of the “secondary” violations, one in particular stands out for me:

A recruit had signed on for a basketball camp at IU’s Assembly Hall, and Sampson had an “impermissablel contact” with him. (It was Indiana and Sampson’s camp). An assistant, Jeff Meyer, also had “impermissable contact” and stands accused of giving the kid a t-shirt and a gym bag, which are the kinds of things players receive when they attend a baskeptball camp. These camps are rarely free. 

I used to get t-shirts at the camps I went to. I got a pair of Pro Keds at a blue chip camp in Kentucky. I hope that was OK in the eyes of the NCAA.

T-shirts, gym bags, phone calls. Indiana reporting itself. It sounds to me as though there were Indiana boosters who never wanted Sampson in the first place, and more or less made sure he was put in a noose when the NCAA announced the Oklahoma sanctions — two months after he took the Indiana job. 

The athletic department at morally turpitudenous Bobby Knight University is apparently unaware that there are federal laws against creating this sort of work environment.

Up until this year, however, folks in Indiana thought quite highly of Kelvin Sampson. Check out this glowing coach Sampson bio still up on the university website. (It’s the same as the one linked above with KELVIN SAMPSON-all caps.)

In the NBA, a coach can use the phone all he wants. If Sampson’s boy Eric Gordon is drafted by another team, he and Gordon can remain friends and no one will send a team of investigators to monitor their conversations. NBA coaches also get to sit in on conference calls but don’t have to worry much about shoes and gym bags – the shoe and bag companies are all over it.

Looking at Sampson’s bio, he would be a great hire for Skiles if the Bucks can seal the deal. Let’s hope Herb Kohl accepts his new assistant coach. I doubt the senator will lose any votes over it. 

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Most impressive about Kelvin Sampson is his USA basketball experience, which is extensive. He’s got plenty of experience working with pro players, so the transition from college to pro personalities shouldn’t be much of a problem for Sampson. Here’s some of the bio:

“He was the head coach of the 2004 USA Basketball World Championship for Young Men qualifying team that posted a 5-0 record and earned a gold medal in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That 2004 squad featured former Hoosier standout Bracey Wright and captured the United States’ first gold medal in the event since 1996. Sampson, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and former Golden State Warriors coach Mike Montgomery were assistant coaches to George Karl on the 2002 USA Men’s World Championship team in Indianapolis. That squad included current NBA stars Paul Pierce, Michael Finley, Elton Brand and Baron Davis.

“In the summer of 1995, Sampson served as head coach of the USA Men’s Junior World Championship team that played in Larissa and Athens, Greece. That team featured current NBA players Vince Carter and Stephon Marbury. Sampson was an assistant coach to George Raveling on the 1994 USA Goodwill Games team that competed in St. Petersburg, Russia. Damon Stoudemire, Shawn Respert, Finley and Tim Duncan led that club to the bronze medal. Sampson began his USA Basketball tenure as the head coach of the 1993 Olympic Festival West team in San Antonio, Texas. Jerod Haase, Charles O’Bannon and Jerald Honeycutt helped that club to the silver medal.”

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