The last time Kelvin Sampson walked off the Assembly Hall court, circumstances were significantly different.
The former Indiana Hoosiers head coach was with a different team, in a different conference, and in a different situation.
Sampson will be in the same building he once called home Friday as his No. 2 seeded Houston Cougars face No. 15 seeded Cleveland State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Indiana.
The last time he was in the building in February 2008, his No. 15 ranked Hoosiers had just beaten No. 14 Purdue.
Sampson resigned as the head coach of Indiana in February 2008 amid a growing scandal over NCAA recruiting violations involving improper telephone calls, and the NCAA made sure he didn’t coach a college program for at least five years.
The rules Sampson broke are no longer NCAA rules, but at the time, he lied about it, The Athletic reports.
Although the strangeness of his return 13 years later went unmentioned during his pregame news conference, the team he brings to the building has similarities to his 2008 group.
“The Cougars are tough-nosed and smart. They don’t turn the ball over. They rebound like crazy,” the IndyStar reports. “Opponent shooting percentages are, across the board, terrible, a testament to Houston’s defense. There’s even a centerpiece guard, Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes.”
The Cougars, who hired the former IU coach in 2014, will make their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance on Friday night.
The Cougars have kept a 24-3 record and 14-3 mark in American Athletic Conference play under Sampson’s guidance. They have been ranked every week this year, finishing the regular season as No. 6 in both polls.
There will be just 500 people in the building Friday to witness Sampson’s return, but all eyes will be on him come tipoff at 7:15 p.m.