'Kelvin Sampson: The OU Basketball Story'


book coverOne of the great thrills of Kelvin Sampson's life was joining his father in the UNC Pembroke Athletic Hall of Fame.

This is from the first lines of his new biography, "Kelvin Sampson: The OU Basketball Story," by Steve Richardson (Republic of Texas Press, Plano, Texas, 2002).

"I was inducted more for what I did after I left there. He (Ned ) was inducted for what he accomplished there. He was a great, great athlete," Kelvin says.

From there, the book chronicles Sampson's story from his Little League days in Pembroke to his rise to glory as one of America's elite basketball coaches at Oklahoma University.

It is worth picking up a copy, whether you are a basketball fan or a Kelvin Sampson fan.

The book is loaded with insider information. Take this quote by Sampson from the 1977-78 UNCP press guide: "We lack a proven center, but our experience from last year as well as some talented freshmen could give us a good team."

Spoken like a man who was born to coach. There are plenty more, including a priceless account of Washington State's tour of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The chapters on his tenure at Montana Tech are also wonderful. This is where the young coach learned his trade - the hard way.

After his first full season at Tech, his mentor, former Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote called to congratulate him on a 4-23 season: "Hey Kel! You are the only coach in captivity that could take Montana Tech from obscurity to oblivion."

"I will tell you how bad that team was," Kelvin says. While carrying him off the court following their first really big win, "they almost dropped me."

The Kelvin Sampson story is not all about fun and games. The author tells how Sampson's "us-against-the-world" mentality was transformed into a winning formula.

And, it spells out why he is one of the best coaches in America.

"I was calling my father because I was having lots of discipline problems. I was asking him, 'How would you handle this?' It was apparent that I was a stickler for details. I couldn't understand why they couldn't jump rope for five minutes without stopping. I could. Running suicides why they didn't touch the line. When we ran sprints in college, I touched the line. Kids cut corners. I didn't have any patience. As the year progressed, we got better in so many areas. And I convinced the kids it was because we touched every line."

There is more about Kelvin and his legendary toughness as a coach and kindness as a man. To this day, Kelvin calls "Mr. Ned" after every game. The contributions of his wife, Karen, are also well documented.

The biography makes it abundantly clear that Kelvin Sampson will never forget where he came from. And, the sky is the limit for this rising star.

It's a great story and a great book. You can get it from RepublicofTexasPress.com, or order it from Amazon.com, or get a copy from the UNCP Bookstore.