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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Reports: Kelvin Sampson to Rockets

ESPN.com news services

HOUSTON -- Kevin McHale has added a couple of familiar names to the Houston Rockets coaching staff.

Kelvin Sampson and J.B. Bickerstaff will join McHale once teams get back to work, according to multiple media reports.

McHale was hired June 1 to replace Rick Adelman, who parted ways with the team after four seasons.

Sampson was also interviewed for the head coaching vacancy. He has been an assistant coach in Milwaukee since 2008, and previously left college coaching jobs at Oklahoma and Indiana under NCAA scrutiny.

Bickerstaff, the son of former NBA head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, has been an assistant in Minnesota the past four seasons. McHale coached the Timberwolves at the end of the 2008-09 and also worked in the team's front office.

The Timberwolves fired Kurt Rambis on Tuesday, and Sampson and Bickerstaff were believed to be potential candidates to become Minnesota's next coach. Sampson was also a candidate to replace the fired John Kuester in Detroit.

The Rockets are moving on with All-Star center Yao Ming expected to retire. Houston has missed the playoffs the past two seasons, with Yao hobbled by injuries and playing in only five games. Yao is expected to formally announce his decision on July 20.

Sampson worked as a college coach from 1979 to 2008, but his problems with the NCAA will likely prevent him from landing another college job.

Oklahoma had eight consecutive 20-win seasons under Sampson, with an appearance in the 2002 Final Four. But the program was later placed on probation for major rules violations involving more than 500 impermissible recruiting phone calls Sampson made between 2000 and 2004.

Indiana hired Sampson in March 2006, despite the ongoing NCAA investigation at Oklahoma. In October 2007, Indiana self-reported that Sampson had made more impermissible phone calls to recruits, and in February 2008, the NCAA informed Indiana that Sampson had committed five major rules violations. Sampson agreed to a contract buyout, and briefly worked as a special assistant to the San Antonio Spurs later that spring.

The Bucks hired Sampson in May 2008; Sampson unsuccessfully appealed the NCAA penalties in 2009 that essentially bar him from coaching in college until 2013.

Bickerstaff not only worked under McHale, he also played at McHale's alma mater, Minnesota. He briefly worked as the Gophers' director of basketball operations before becoming a radio analyst for the Timberwolves for the 2003-04 season. He worked three seasons under his father with the Charlotte Bobcats before the Timberwolves hired him as an assistant in 2007.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.