>”Awkward” may be the best way to describe Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson’s situation.
Since the NCAA sent the Hoosiers documentation last week with allegations that Sampson, along with members of his staff, knowingly committed major NCAA violations, the status of Indiana’s head coach has been in limbo.
Sampson, who was already under NCAA probation after prior recruiting violations during his tenure at Oklahoma, allegedly committed five major violations – including more than 100 impermissible phone calls to recruits – from March 29, 2006 to July 31, 2007, and then lied when questioned about them.
The NCAA is not expected to make an official ruling on the matter until the summer. However, Indiana, led by athletic director Rick Greenspanhas, launched its own private investigation into the allegations and should announce by Friday what action will be taken.
Many believe the eventual fallout will be the dismissal of Sampson amid arguably the Hoosiers’ biggest week of the season.
Despite the cloud of smoke hanging over his head, Sampson coached the Hoosiers (21-4 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) to a blowout 80-61 home win against No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday night.
Tonight, in what some speculate may be Sampson’s last game at Indiana, the Hoosiers take on conference-leader Purdue at Assembly Hall.
When Sampson was asked during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference if the last week was the toughest of his coaching career, he paused for a few seconds before answering.
“The one thing about this week that I’ve tried hard to do is focus on my team and focus on my family,” Sampson said. “Every day in practice for us is business as usual. Once I leave the gym, that’s a whole other deal.”
Minnesota men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith has been a good friend of Sampson dating back to their early coaching days in the town of Raeford, N.C.
Smith has his own opinion on the allegations against Sampson.
“It’s not good for Kelvin. It’s not good for Indiana. It’s not good for the Big Ten. It’s not good for college basketball,” Smith said at the Gophers’ media availability Friday morning.
“Rules are there to make sure everybody is on the same playing ground. Obviously there are consequences to everything.”
Still, Smith said he hopes the allegations against his friend aren’t true.
“You read it. You always hope that it is not that way. You hope that certain things didn’t happen. But if it did? Take your medicine and move on.”
Westbrook continues to impress
Only three players have started every game for the Gophers this season. Senior center Spencer Tollackson and senior forward Dan Coleman are two of these.
The third is versatile sophomore guard Lawrence Westbrook.
Westbrook, who played sparingly last season, has put up respectable numbers during the increased playing time afforded to him under Smith.
Westbrook has looked more like the player who led the nation in scoring as a junior in high school, with an average of 40 points per game, than the one who played 10.8 minutes as a freshman and sat out seven Big Ten games.
The Chandler, Ariz., native has scored double figures in four of Minnesota’s last five games and is averaging 7.7 points during his 22.3 minutes of play time per game.