The list of legendary college basketball coaches often starts and ends with how many games he or she won and how they fared in the big dance.
Kelvin Sampson-coached teams have reached the NCAA tournament 15 times and although the farthest round achieved was the Final Four, there is one elite group he can now say he is a part of.
With a 69-58 win over in-state rival SMU, Sampson registered his 600th career win, breaking a tie with Slats Gill, who coached Oregon State from 1928-1964, on the list of all-time winningest coaches in Division I history.
That tie-breaker gave Sampson sole possession of the No. 57 spot on the overall list and also made him just the 18th active member to compile 600 wins. He now sits close behind David Boots’ win-total of 603 and after that, Sampson will be chasing a close friend in Tubby Smith, who currently owns 607 wins in what is now his 28th year at the helm of a college basketball team.
Smith was one of a multitude of former players and coaches who have reached out to Sampson to congratulate him on his achievement, a notion that humbled Sampson.
“It makes my day when I hear from a former player,” he said.
People who have been impacted by Sampson took to social media to congratulate their former coach, filling the internet with thankful messages and congratulatory statements for a coach who has only bolstered his illustrious career donning a suit and tie and running a basketball program.
Although the people he would have enjoyed hearing from the most are no longer capable of doing so unfortunately.
“The thing I thought about tonight was, ‘I wish my mom and dad were alive to see it,’” Sampson noted.
They would have witnessed the turnaround he completed in the short amount of time he’s been here, a story that he looks back on fondly still.
He recounted the initial days of him joining the Cougar family, and unceremoniously approached by players who asked for their release to transfer schools.
However, that was not a task for Sampson to accomplish, as he had to get to work with the few members of the team that wanted to stick it out. They were joined by a strong recruiting class that led Houston to its first win in the NCAA Tournament since 1984.
It also served as the fourth school that Sampson guided to the Tournament, becoming the 14th coach to take so many teams to the ultimate postseason.
That is where the Cougars’ sights are set for now, still rolling along on the nation’s longest home winning streak and an 18-1 record heading into Wednesday’s competition with the Eastern Carolina Pirates.
The win over SMU as well as a road win over South Florida improved Houston’s resume enough to jump up to No. 17 in this week’s AP Poll, just behind a 13-4 Auburn team and in front of Villanova’s 14-4 mark.
With 12 games still remaining in the regular-season schedule, March Madness experts have begun to project seedings for each team heading into the craziest month of college basketball.
Many signs point to the Cougars owning a No. 3 seed in a region, which could set them up nicely for a run that Houston hopes will last longer than the heartbreaking removal from round-of-32 play last year.