Kelvin Sampson still gets a thrill from watching the NCAA Tournament, even though he knows he'll probably never be part of it again.
Sampson beams when he talks about the success of Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds, a player he originally recruited to Oklahoma. He's happy to see his friends in coaching keep winning.
But given the fallout from Sampson's messy exit from Indiana, he has accepted the idea that his exile from college basketball probably is permanent. So as the Laurinburg native winds up his first year as an assistant to Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles, Sampson has a new goal in mind: to become a head coach in the NBA.
"You never say never," Sampson said of a potential return to college basketball. "But I'm really excited about the NBA, and I'm excited about the possibility of becoming a head coach in the NBA one day, maybe. And if it works out, it works out. If it does, it does. If it doesn't, it doesn't. But just being here with the Bucks, being part of this rebuilding, is exciting for me."
Sampson joined Skiles' staff in May, less than three months after resigning as the Hoosiers coach and accepting a $750,000 buyout after an NCAA report charged him with five major NCAA rules violations.
Sampson also is learning to love life in the pros. And the more he learns, the more he sees the NBA as his permanent home.
Coming into this season, Sampson expected to find players who fit the NBA stereotype: highly paid divas who don't listen to coaches. But Sampson says his real-world experience with Bucks players such as Charlie Villanueva, Charlie Bell and Richard Jefferson has been the opposite.
"The thing that's surprised me is how receptive players have been to coaching," Sampson said. "You know, you hear about things, but from Charlie to Charlie to Richard, everybody -- everybody on this team is coachable, and I think that says a lot about the organization and the kind of guys they have in here."
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