Like many NBA assistant coaches, Kelvin Sampson aspires to become a head coach.
"I’ve always been a goal-oriented person,” Sampson said. "That’s my next goal. But there are a lot of great assistant coaches in this league that are qualified. I’m just going to work hard, learn as much as I can and focus on helping our team get better.”
Sampson’s Milwaukee Bucks play the Thunder tonight in the Ford Center not far from where his career took off at Oklahoma.
Twice named national coach of the year at OU, Sampson led the Sooners to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, highlighted by the 2004 Final Four.
In 25 seasons at Montana Tech, Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana, Sampson recorded 498 wins.
Sampson is in his second year in the NBA. Is it more difficult to coach million dollar pro athletes?
"The thing that surprised me is you hear a lot about NBA guys, do they really want to be coached?” Sampson said. "My experience is they really do want to be coached. They want a plan, ‘How are we going to win the game?’ And they’ll follow that plan. At the end of the day you’re still coaching.”
Sampson began his NBA coaching career after two NCAA investigations. The NCAA concluded he was involved in 233 of 577 impermissible phone calls at OU over a four-year period. In his second year at Indiana, he faced more allegations of excessive phone calls.
Accepting a $750,000 contract buyout from Indiana in February 2008, Sampson scouted for the Spurs that spring. He was hired by Bucks head coach Scott Skiles a year ago.
"I’m in a great situation,” Sampson said. "We have a great GM in John Hammond. And Scott Skiles is one of the best coaches in the NBA, someone I observe and learn from on a day-to-day basis.”