Prior to landing the men's basketball head coaching job at the University of Houston, Kelvin Sampson had been employed at the NBA level for six years. Sampson was initially hired as an advisor for the San Antonio Spurs, then was hired as an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets.
Sampson joined then Rockets coach Kevin McHale's coaching staff in 2011, at a time when the Rockets weren't quite good enough to be a playoff team, but also weren't at the bottom of the league. In other words, the Rockets were exactly where a franchise doesn't want to be.
One Beard-sized trade would change the scope of the team entirely, as the Rockets traded for James Harden prior to the start of the 2012-13 season. With a trio of Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons, the Rockets were a young, hungry bunch that was fun to watch.
The Rockets clawed their way to the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference, which wasn't bad, considering how that was both Harden and Lin's first seasons with the franchise. During that offseason, the Rockets signed prized free agent Dwight Howard, who left a potential $30 million on the table from the Los Angeles Lakers to join the young and hungry Rockets.
In 2013-14, the Rockets' superstar pairing of Howard and Harden finished with the fourth seed in the West, posting a 54-28 record, with a 9 win improvement over their 45-37 record in 2012-13. But the Rockets were eliminated in the first round during that season, much like they did the year before.
Kelvin Sampson shares frustrations from coaching stint with Houston Rockets
After 3 seasons with the Rockets, Sampson left his post as assistant coach to become the 9th head basketball coach in the history of the Houston Cougars. On Monday, Sampson joined Sirius XM's NBA Draft Preview Show and shared some of his frustrations from those Rockets teams from 2011-2014.
"I remember when I was with the Rockets. We had some really athletic kids.
But they didn't chase guys down or try to pin the ball in the backcourt. They didn't go above the rim and snatch the rebound. They didn't use their length to get into the passing lanes.
They were basically dunk show guys."
Sampson made the comments while discussing the perceived lack of athleticism of former Cougars' standout Quentin Grimes.
Since joining the Cougars, Sampson has become the winningest coach in the history of the men's basketball program, as he's won 72.3% of his games and has led the Coogs to six consecutive 20-win seasons. Sampson and the Coogs made it to the Final Four in 2021, and appear primed to make another run in 2021-22.
Sampson received a contract extension in 2019, which has him under contract through 2027, at which point he will be 71-years-old.