Thunder notebook: Kelvin Sampson continues to coach Houston Rockets

Former Oklahoma coach is filling in while Kevin McHale is away from the team.
By John Rohde Published: November 27, 2012
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photo - Houston Rockets assistant basketball coach Kelvin Sampson gives direction from the bench during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Sampson was filling in for head coach Kevin McHale who is on family leave. (AP Photo/Don Ryan) ORG XMIT: ORDR108
Houston Rockets assistant basketball coach Kelvin Sampson gives direction from the bench during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Sampson was filling in for head coach Kevin McHale who is on family leave. (AP Photo/Don Ryan) ORG XMIT: ORDR108

Former Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson continues to lead the Houston Rockets following the Saturday death of 23-year-old Alexandra “Sasha” McHale, the daughter of Houston coach Kevin McHale. She died in Minneapolis, reportedly of complications from lupus.

McHale has been on a leave of absence since Nov. 10 to be with his daughter and family and was replaced by Sampson.

“Sasha was a daddy's girl,” Sampson told the Houston Chronicle after her passing. “I remember last year during the lockout when we were meeting, she got sick. She was on a study abroad and had to come back. He just talked about her all the time. It's just tough. It's terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible.”

There is no timetable for McHale's return. Sampson and the coaching staff planned to attend Wednesday's funeral service in Minnesota and then fly to OKC for the 7 p.m. game at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

NO BIG DEAL

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin gave obligatory “just another game” responses when asked about Wednesday's contest.

Not Thunder coach Scott Brooks, however.

“No, it's not another game,” Brooks joked after Tuesday's practice. “They traded me in the second championship year. It took me five years to get over (coach) Rudy Tomjanovich. Now, we're best buddies. But, yeah, it's still personal.”

The well-humored Brooks was referring to getting traded from the Rockets during halftime of a game on Feb. 23, 1995, moments before the trade deadline. Brooks was on Houston's championship 1993-94 team, and the Rockets went on to repeat the following season after Brooks was traded to Dallas. Brooks played 59 games with the Rockets in 1994-95 and was not awarded a championship ring.

The Thunder and Rockets executed a trade on Oct. 27 that sent James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston in exchange for Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two conditional first-round draft choices and a second-round pick.

FRIENDLY RIVALS

There were plenty of laughs for two seasons when Thunder guards Westbrook, Harden, Cook and Eric Maynor held their playful pre-practice and post-practice shooting contests.

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