The Houston Cougars were once one of the premier basketball programs in America. There was a time Houston was as much a part of March Madness as the Kentuckys, Louisvilles, North Carolinas, Indianas and UCLAs.
An entire generation has passed since then. The Cougars have made the NCAAs once in 30 years. They haven't won a tourney game since 1984. They have gone through a series of mediocre coaches, mediocre seasons and boring basketball. As such, the fan base has eroded to the point of non-existence. Cougar basketball -- once the standard bearer of the Southwest -- is completely irrelevant.
This week, James Dickey announced he was stepping down after a typically mediocre four-year run of 64-62 with one postseason appearance in the irrelevant CBI tournament. Once again, the Cougars will look to find someone who can rejuvenate the program.
The first name -- one that popped up immediately -- was former Oklahoma and Indiana head coach and current Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports. The Chronicle reported it today.
Sampson would be an absolute coup. In 14 years at OU and IU, his teams made the NCAAs 13 times. His last Indiana team made it without him as he was dismissed for recruiting violations in season. He also had issues at OU. As a result, he had a five year "show cause" order that kept him out of the NCAAs. Since then, he's been in the NBA, most recently with the Rockets. He has been a head coaching candidate in the NBA and is a big reason for the Rockets success.
It's easy to dismiss the NCAA violations. In truth, every program is doing something outside the NCAA's rules, which are onerous and inconsistent. It's simply a matter of who gets caught.
In Sampson's case, the man can flat out coach. He can recruit. He can take the quality players on UH's roster and make them better immediately. For a school that has been irrelevant for years, he would be a powerful choice.
TSU's Mike Davis' name has also come up, but his track record is nowhere near Sampson's.
The Cougars could also go younger, perhaps a coach like Manhattan's Steve Masiello, who had been hired by South Florida but the deal fell through when he lied on his resume. SFA's Brad Underwood won a tourney game this year in his first season with the Lumberjacks. There are some other good young up and comers out there -- Southern's Roman Banks for one -- who might be good longterm answers.
But if Sampson wants the job -- which is still a big if -- it should be a no-brainer. He would be a terrific hire.
Whether or not it happens remains to be seen.