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Texas Christian Sacks Sooners

Moses leads Sooner tight ends

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Thompson gets nod at QB

Birdine Lost For Season

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Breaking Down The Offense

Spring football eases pain




On Sale at Newsstands April 7!
OU will miss Sampson
RW looks at the coach's departure

So, there I was, knocking out a column about spring football and the like, when the rumors start coming in. Then the phone calls from people – “Have you heard? Kelvin Sampson to Indiana!” I was a bit taken aback, I must confess. Struck out of the blue, if you will.

It was a bit hard to imagine Sooner hoops without Kelvin Sampson, especially since he had pretty well made it known that he was in Norman for the long haul. Plus, with the whole NCAA phone call thing still unresolved, I didn’t figure he’d be too attractive to another school, especially not one of the big-time names in college hoops.

But then I thought about it. And then it felt a little like it had all happened before, about 12 years ago, when I heard out of the blue that Billy Tubbs was leaving OU for TCU, of all places. Then, as now, I was first shocked, then stunned, having difficulty imagining Sooner hoops without the ref-baiting Tubbs on the sideline. And then, as now, I thought about it and realized that it was probably a good thing for all involved.

Tubbs was burned out at OU, I think, which is why he left for a program that, let’s face it, was and is no Indiana. He needed a change of scenery, and he took it when he found it. After some thought about the subject at the time, I realized neither I nor OU hoops would miss him, because we’d go on to something different and better.

Sampson is a little different, I think, as unlike Tubbs, who just wanted to be somewhere else, he was lured away by the potential of being THE MAN at one of the storied schools in hoops. I mean, let’s face it, Indiana is to basketball what, well, Oklahoma is to football. The Hoosiers are the old money of college hoops. Legendary players, legendary coaches, legendary seasons, championships out the wazoo. The hoops coach at Indiana plays second fiddle to nobody in Bloomington, especially not the football coach. Indeed, were it not for the fact that they knocked off the Sooners’ football uniforms a few years ago, this humble reporter might even have entirely forgotten that Indiana HAD a football team.

And so, when the big boys come calling, anybody in their right mind has to listen. And when they offer you the top job at one of the top schools in your profession, it’s really hard to say no, and Sampson couldn’t. It’s kind of like the football coach at Clemson or Arkansas or somewhere like that coming to Norman to be the coach. They might have had a really good situation where they were, but there are some jobs you just can’t turn down. Indiana hoops is one of them.

As a practical matter, it’s a good thing for both Sampson and the Sooners, potential repercussions with new recruits notwithstanding. If he wants to be someplace more than Norman, then that’s where he needs to be. Some fans’ relationship with Sampson has, shall we say, cooled, to say the least, and many are shedding no tears to see him go. Those are probably many of the same ones who don’t deign to darken the doors of the Lloyd Noble Center, unless Texas or Oklahoma State are in town.

Many of those folks simply never reconciled themselves to the fact that, for the most part, college basketball is no longer played like it was played in Norman when Tubbs was here. BillyBall was exciting, to be sure, but toughness and defense are what wins in the 21st Century, not track meets. Those welcoming Sampson’s departure would do well to remember that, no matter who comes in to replace him, it’s about winning and graduating kids, and staying clean, not what style of play gets you there.

But some Sooner fans just couldn’t take the nightly five-plus minute scoring droughts, and the games in the 50s and 60s, and the fact that the two lowest scoring games in Big XII history were won by Sampson’s Oklahoma teams. In his final season, even the toughness that always characterized Sampson’s teams was absent. You never thought the 2005-06 Sooners could win by wanting it more and working harder and imposing their will on a team with a lesser mental makeup, like all the Sampson teams before. These Sooners were more talented, but less tough, and that all added up to a disappointing season for a team picked by many to be heading to Indianapolis for the Final Four. Instead, their now-former coach headed to Indianapolis with his family to take the reins at Indiana’s Assembly Hall.

And so, the Kelvin Sampson era at Oklahoma ends. All I can say from the LNC’s second row is good luck, coach. We’ll miss you, and thanks for all you’ve done. We’ll be lucky to get someone who can do what you’ve done in the last 12 years.

Oh, and a piece of advice - if the fans in Bloomington start chanting “Purdue sucks!” during a game, just let it go.