Houston Cougars’ impressive run in the NCAA tournament has ended, but the pride and love for the team and its head coach UNC Pembroke alumnus Kelvin Sampson continues to burn strong in the hearts of his UNCP family.
Sampson led the Cougars to their first Final Four appearance since 1984 before falling to Baylor, who went on to win the national championship on Monday night.
Since taking over the program in 2014, Sampson has led the Cougars to six straight 20-win seasons and three NCAA tournament appearances, returning Houston to prominence since the Phi Slamma Jamma days of Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler in the 1980s.
Throughout his career, Sampson has enjoyed the support from his alma mater, family and friends from his hometown of Pembroke. The son of legendary high school coach John “Ned” Sampson, Kelvin Sampson was a two-sport star at UNCP in the early 1970s before breaking into the college coaching ranks at Michigan State in 1979. He quickly became one of the winningest coaches and most recognizable names in college basketball. Sampson ranks as the second-winningest coach in Houston history and stands as the program's career leader in winning percentage.
Throughout his 32-year career, Sampson has remained connected to UNCP, making frequent visits. He delivered the commencement speech at UNCP in 2020. The same year, he was among stars who participated in the athletic department’s annual Cash Bash event. Also noteworthy, his wife, Karen Lowry Sampson, a Pembroke native and fellow UNCP graduate, currently serves on the university’s Board of Trustees.
Sampson and the Cougars may have fallen short of a national championship title. Still, he has brought much pride, excitement and national attention to his alma mater and his hometown over the years.