Aug. 4, 2006
On every calendar there's a certain day - a birthday, an anniversary, a special occasion - that the calendar's owner is eagerly awaiting, counting down the days. For Kelvin Sampson, it's Aug. 28.
On Aug. 28, Sampson can truly start his work as head coach at Indiana.
"There's usually reasons why kids can be inconsistent, and I think there's reasons for that, and why I can't wait for Aug. 28," he said. "While everyone else was out recruiting in April, I had to stay here and recruit these kids. I didn't get to go recruit. I had to recruit this team. Starting Aug. 28, it's about teaching, and getting kids to understand a new system. Every coach that's at a new school is going to go through the same thing."
Until then, Sampson and his staff have to focus on other things. While that includes the normal off-the-court aspects of coaching, such as watching tape and working on schedules, it also includes the mundane tasks of everyday life.
"We haven't been here long enough to go on vacation," Sampson said of his coaching staff. "We're moving into a new house, my wife broke her foot. I help her a lot. Coach [Ray] McCallum's got two children who will be going to Bloomington North [High School]. His family's getting adjusted. Coach [Jeff] Meyer's daughter is moving from Columbia to Indianapolis. Coach [Rob] Senderoff bought his first house. We do things that anyone else would do."
Sampson, who has worked everywhere from East Lansing, Mich., to Pullman, Wash., is used to working in college towns where basketball is big business. And while he hasn't gotten used to how the one-way streets in Bloomington work, he already has found things he likes about the town. Not the least of which is his excitement with the challenge of coaching a new basketball team.
"This is a beautiful city," said Sampson, who became the 26th coach in IU basketball history in March. "I've been driving from Indianapolis from Bloomington a lot. I wish the airport was closer. I've learned how to take that 67 turnoff to Martinsville. I've got that figured out. That's a beautiful drive, from Indianapolis to Bloomington. I've lived everywhere from East Lansing to Butte to Pullman to Norman. Some guys are obligated to say certain things, but I've enjoyed everywhere I've lived.
"There's an excitement with me with the new team," he added. "I've never coached these kids. People ask me how we're going to be, I have no idea. No clue. I know the schedule is awful tough. But we're excited about it."
Sampson's troops face another rigorous schedule in 2006-07, but the games that Sampson sees as a challenge aren't necessarily the trips to Big Ten barns that most IU fans would consider the toughest place to play.
"When we play at Duke, at Kentucky, at Connecticut, those are great opportunities," Sampson said. "I think there's a lot more pressure on you when you have to play at Indiana State, because those are games that everybody thinks you should win. I watched Indiana State on tape. You have no idea how well coached teams like Indiana State are. They have it set in their mind who should win.
"In the 1980s nobody played on TV except certain schools," he continued. "Now, everyone plays on TV. Look at George Mason. Think a school like George Mason could have made it to the Final Four twenty years ago? They can now. Bradley, Wichita State and George Mason - People get upset if those schools beat their school, but they're good; they're really, really good."
With the changes that have come about in college basketball over the last 20 years, any team can find itself in the hunt for the national championship. And with Kelvin Sampson at the helm, there's no doubt that Indiana will be one of those teams.
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