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Friday, March 7, 2008
Popping up in San Antonio: Kelvin Sampson


Where do you go when you are bought out of your head coaching contract at Indiana University because of alleged recruiting violations?

To hang out with your friend Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News on the appearance of Kelvin Sampson:

Sampson, a friend of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's, has been in town observing the Spurs in games and practices this week. He and Popovich have known each other since serving together on George Karl's Team USA staff at the 2002 FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis.

"He's a buddy," Popovich said. "He's here and we're having fun together, and learning from each other. I want him to look at us, and if he's got a good suggestion, then great."

Sampson, who was asked to step down at Indiana after the NCAA alleged five major recruiting violations, has an open-ended invitation to stick around with the Spurs for as long as he wants, Popovich said.

I can hear you thinking something like: but wait, the Spurs are the choirboys of the NBA! They are pristine and pure! They always dominate those "good guy" lists. Why would they be hanging around with a coach who is shrouded in ethical questions?

And here's where you realize that things the NCAA abhors, like lots of phone calls to players, are simply no big deal in the NBA. (Get this: in the NBA, I've heard they even pay players.)

I know, I know we agree to the rules in advance and we are supposed to follow them. But I just can't see NBA people being really upset at having a guy around who was aggressively trying to get the best players. In the college game, that may be a crime. In the NBA, it's a speeding ticket, and it surprises me none to see Sampson joining his friend in San Antonio.

Not to mention: it's just smart for Popovich. He's risking nothing, and gets to be there for a friend in a time of trouble. Kelvin Sampson will never forget that.