Collected wisdom: Kelvin Sampson, Houston Rockets interim coach and former Oklahoma basketball coach

Kelvin Sampson coached for 12 seasons at Oklahoma (1994-2006) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament 11 times, including the 2002 Final Four when he was named NABC coach of the year.
Interviewed by John Rohde Published: December 1, 2012
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photo - Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson directs the players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Houston. Sampson is handling coaching duties until head coach Kevin McHale returns from family business. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson directs the players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Houston. Sampson is handling coaching duties until head coach Kevin McHale returns from family business. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

I learned more in a week in the NBA than I did in a year in college. There were so many things I didn't know – the timeout pattern; how to defend the pick-and-roll; how the defensive 3-second rule impacts the weak-side defense and strong-side defense; why teams zone and why teams don't.

I learned quickly in the NBA that you keep one eye open at all times and one ear closed. You can't react to everything you hear or see.

Micromanagers and over-reactors don't make it in the NBA. You have to learn to let things go.

We're all a product of our environment, but there's a lot of guys who got a start because of who their dad was who turn out to be great coaches, too. One of the best coaches I know who never really got the proper credit was Dan Monson. He probably got his start because his dad was a coach, but he earned his road as he's gone forward.

I get attached emotionally and I invest emotionally into whatever I do.

I felt comfortable when they asked me to take over for Kevin (McHale), but thinking about Kevin and his family … since he left Nov. 10, I've talked to him every day, sometimes two or three times a day. Sometimes I just put the phone to my ear and just let him talk, just let him talk about his daughter, about his family, go wherever he wants to go, just be a friend. Coaching the team is the easy part to me. This is a good team to coach.

This (Houston Rockets) team is not made to play in half-court. We're a jump-shot shooting team and we have to have as many possessions as possible for our best chance to win.

My father (Ned) is still the biggest influence I've had in my life, as a person and as a coach. He was the best at doing more with less. When I look at the way I started my career at Montana Tech and Washington State, that was a great way for me to start my career, especially when I took those programs over. I had to learn to do that.

As my teams changed, I had to change. You don't approach every team the same. You don't have a one-way-or-the-highway approach that you do no matter what. As my teams have changed, I think I've done a good job of adapting. That might not have been the most appeasing to the eye, but that was the way we had to play to win the game.

When I left college ball, I think I was prepared to coach a team, but I don't think I was prepared to help the team win. I didn't realize the difference between coaching college and coaching the NBA. It's a totally different animal.

Defining what a great basketball wife is kind of goes to my involvement-commitment analogy. To serve bacon and eggs, there's two animals involved in that meal. The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed. That's Karen, she's committed.

In a lot of ways, Kellen is Karen and Lauren is me. I think Kellen got his best qualities from Karen. Lauren is a lot like me in a lot of ways. I think they got the best of both of us.

I think Kellen is going to be a good coach. He's further along as a coach than I was at his age. For one thing, he's smarter than I was, but that goes back to having his mother's best qualities.

Karen is honest, meticulous, has great attention to detail, leaves no stone unturned. She's amazing that way, and she's just got a heart of gold. Probably the best person I've ever been around is Karen.