Why October is the favorite month for Houston’s Kelvin Sampson

Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson during the team’s 2022 NCAA Tournament run. The Cougars made it to the Elite Eight. (Courtesy Sean Thomas)

Why October is the favorite month for Houston’s Kelvin Sampson

The Houston Cougars men’s basketball team is gearing up for the 2022-23 season, and head coach Kelvin Sampson is enjoying every second of it.

Houston is projected to have a historic season by multiple national media outlets and pundits. The Cougars are returning guard Marcus Sasser, who missed a majority of last season with a foot injury and are bringing in a strong recruiting class, but the Pembroke, North Carolina, native couldn’t care less about any of that. He is finding joy in preparing for the new season because he is getting to do his favorite thing—teach.

“It’s my favorite month,” Sampson said. “I enjoy teaching. I would have loved to have been a teacher.”

At this point in the year, everybody is in an improvement mode, Sampson said. The veteran guys have an advantage over the new additions, which this year include five-star recruit Jarace Walker, four-star recruit Terrance Arceneaux and transfers Mylik Wilson and Darius Bowser.

The veteran players on Houston’s roster are tasked with leading the young guys, guard Tramon Mark said. The returning Cougars make sure the younger ones know what they are doing and are in the right place at all times, he added.

The biggest thing the younger players need to learn is to play hard at all times, Houston forward J’Wan Roberts said.

“Play for your brothers too,” Roberts said. “They’re going to have your back. You got to have their back.”

Playing hard for Houston is an expectation. As cliché as it may sound, there are various reasons why being aggressive and going all out for each possession has its benefits.

“Some of our best games are when we made our most mistakes, but we hustled and played so hard you don’t really notice them unless you know what you’re looking for,” Sampson said.

The first two months of the season are flooded with a lot of information. Players need to learn not only their responsibilities but also what to do when mistakes occur, Sampson said.

The coaching staff is essentially tasked with providing a how-to guide for the players on what to do in numerous scenarios. A development that takes a long time to implement, the head coach said.

“It’s a very painstaking process,” Sampson said. “That’s why we play our best basketball in February and March because we know what we are doing in February and March.”

When the Cougars lost to Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational during the 2021-22 season, new additions Kyler Edwards, Taze Moore and Josh Carlton were all one month into playing for Houston.

They didn’t know how to correct their mistakes, Sampson said. Fast forward to March 2022, and all three were in a position to know how to address their errors, the head coach said. All three played key roles for the Cougars during their run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

“You don’t know how to correct your mistakes in October and November,” Sampson said. “They just get their [rear ends] chewed out when they make one, and that’s all they know right now. Once they start connecting the dots, that’s when you become a good team, and we are nowhere close to doing that.”

While Houston fans are excited for the team to take the court and start the highly anticipated season, Sampson is in no hurry.

One of Sampson’s sayings is nothing has ever been taught until it has been learned and nothing has ever been learned until it has been taught. It is one of the reasons the Houston leader is never in a rush to progress until he knows his players have fully grasped a concept.

“When I teach something, I make sure they learn,” Sampson said.

“I’m never in a hurry. I’m really patient, maybe because I’ve done this 35 times. I’ve had 35 Octobers. 35 Novembers.”

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