HOUSTON — The University of Houston basketball team is arguably the most surprising team this season in college basketball.
UH is off to a school-record 15-0 start, Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson has never had a better mark through this point in the season and, at 63, sounds energized but settled with the powerhouse he's built in the AAC.
"I used to think 63 was old," Sampson said with a laugh this week.
Sampson cites his team's success to the contributions from the upperclassmen on his roster including incredible senior leadership from Corey Davis, Galen Robinson and Breaon Brady. The old guys are unheralded program-changers.
"They are what I want senior leaders to be," Sampson said. "They couldn't care less about statistics or any of that stuff that will grab teams by the throat. ... We don't have any knuckleheads. We don't deal with -- knock on wood -- discipline issues. These kids are on time, they stay late, always in the coaches' office watching film. I told them, 'I want you to be addicted to getting better. I don't want you to be addicted to winning.'"
Sampson, who is two wins away from 600, has taken a journey few of his contemporaries can match. Sampson's coaching career started at Michigan State in 1979-80, the season after Magic Johnson departed. Two years later, Sampson was the coach at Montana Tech. Stints at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana would eventually follow over the decades. He infamously lost the IU gig in 2008 due to NCAA infractions: telecommunications violations, mostly, that no longer even exist in the rulebook.
Sampson has been at Houston since 2014 (while under show-cause penalty from the NCAA he spent time as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets). His hoops acumen is doubted by essentially no one. And with Houston's strong start and the potential to make back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for -- yes, it's true -- the first time since Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were wearing UH unis, it's quite possible Sampson's name could come up for the UCLA job, if not other high-profile gigs that could open in March.
But Sampson may not be ready to blast off from Houston.
"I want this to be my final stop," Sampson told CBS Sports of staying at UH.