The question was simple and intentionally direct: Was Kelvin Sampson's return to college coaching at all motivated by a desire to clear his name?
The answer, though brief in words, was far more complex. Sampson paused for a good 15 seconds, a stretch that can feel like an eternity in a phone conversation. He finally exhaled and answered.
"Yes," he said, stretching out the word and pausing again. "I'm not going to go any deeper than that, but yes."
In sports, there is always a winner and a loser, and eventually the sting from even the toughest loss dissipates. But what if something else is lost in the quest for the big win, something more precious than a game? Like a reputation?
What then? How do you come back?
Two NCAA sinners are about to answer that question this coming season: Sampson at Houston and Bruce Pearl at Auburn.
Done in by hubris as much as by the NCAA rulebook, they each were fired from good jobs and slapped with a show-cause penalty, their transgressions deemed so egregious that they were told to stay away from college basketball for a while.
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