Indiana hires Sampson to replace Davis

Updated: March 29, 2006, 7:33 PM ET
Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana fans greeted new Hoosier coach Kelvin Sampson with a standing ovation. His next job is keeping them on their feet.

Kelvin Sampson
AP Photo/John HarrellIf the NCAA fingers Sampson, it could cost him some money.

Sampson took over one of America's most prestigious basketball schools Wednesday and quickly promised to keep Indiana's tradition intact by doing three things: Graduating players, running a clean program and winning titles.

"I came to Indiana for one reason: I think you can win championships at Indiana," Sampson said. "I think together we can do some special things at Indiana University."

With wife Karen, daughter Lauren and son Kellen watching from the front row, a couple hundred eager students burst into a chant of "Hoo, Hoo, Hoo-siers" on cue.

But even as Sampson signed a seven-year deal that pays an average of $1.5 million annually -- what athletic director Rick Greenspan believes is the richest deal for a coach in school history -- Sampson's emotions covered a wide swath.

First, he thanked Oklahoma's president, athletic director and fans for their support over the past 12 seasons.

Then he sent an optimistic message about returning the Hoosiers program to glory after going 19 seasons without a national championship. The students responded with their loudest applause of the day.

Finally, Sampson appeared conciliatory when the two issues that tarnished his reputation at Oklahoma -- graduation and NCAA violations -- were addressed. He leaves Oklahoma amid an NCAA investigation into more than 550 impermissible phone calls made to recruits by Sampson and his assistant coaches. Sooners officials are scheduled to appear before the NCAA infractions committee on April 21.

Any sanctions against Sampson could follow him to Indiana.

"It is a little bit embarrassing to stand up here and be asked about NCAA violations, but you also have to realize we're human and we make mistakes," he said. "I made a mistake but we've corrected it and moved forward."

Clearly, the allegations were an issue for Indiana, which has a long-standing reputation of avoiding NCAA trouble.

University president Adam Herbert addressed the allegations in his introductory remarks, and Stephen Ferguson, the president of the university's trustees, acknowledged it was something top officials sought to clarify during the interview process.

"That was obviously our No. 1 concern," Ferguson said. "We spoke with the attorney and Oklahoma extensively. We reviewed the situation and we were satisfied."

Sampson has more immediate concerns, too.

Two of Indiana's top players, sophomores D.J. White and Robert Vaden, have both said they intend to follow former coach Mike Davis wherever he lands. Davis announced Feb. 16 that he would resign at season's end. He has been rumored to be in contention for jobs at Arizona State and Alabama-Birmingham.

Before the news conference, Sampson spent about 45 minutes meeting with the players and then dropped White's name during his opening remarks. While White and about a half-dozen current players attended the event, Vaden, noticeably, did not.

White insisted neither his appearance nor Vaden's absence was a signal of what either player would decide.

"I'm going to listen to coach, but I'm weighing my options," he said. "I've got to see what's best for me. ... I'm my own man and Robert's his own man."

Herbert and Greenspan, who conducted the five-week search, insisted Sampson was the right man for the pressure-filled job.

Greenspan praised Sampson's ability to produce hard-nosed, disciplined, unselfish teams that win consistently.

Herbert took another tack, emphasizing Sampson's ability to re-establish Indiana as one of the nation's premier basketball programs -- something Sampson helped Oklahoma do.

"I am fully convinced that he will elevate the program to what you expect," Herbert said. "You will love his values, you will be impressed with his preparation for every game and you will love the aggressive defense his team plays. He has made clear our players will do well academically and graduate and that he will comply fully with NCAA regulations."

But the biggest attraction for Sampson, who acknowledged he wasn't even part of Indiana's search until last week, was that he could win a national title in Bloomington -- something he could not do in previous stops at Montana Tech, Washington State and Oklahoma.

"As an outsider, when you think of Indiana," Sampson said, "you think about a place that not only has championships but a championship tradition."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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