KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Following the Houston Cougars' heartbreaking 62-58 loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, Cougars players expressed confidence that head coach Kelvin Sampson would remain coaching the program.
Interest in Sampson as he pushed them into a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and to the school's first Sweet 16 appearance since 1984 has grown and his name was linked to the Arkansas head coaching position as their No.1 target.
The school has been pursuing a long-term contract agreement for an extended period of time, but has not reached an agreement with Sampson. Sports Director Randy McIlvoy reported Thursday night the Cougars have offered Sampson a six-year contract worth $18 million.
Players said during the week leading up to the Friday night game with Kentucky, Sampson met with the team about the situation.
"He set the record straight, he's not going anywhere," sophomore Fabian White said.
"He loves us, he loves the University of Houston. I'm pretty sure he wants to retire after this (next contract). I feel like he's not going to go."
Freshman Nate Hinton said similar things about Sampson.
"He had a conversation with us (before the game) so we were comfortable with and we're moving forward," Hinton said.
"In my mind, he's a great coach, and he's one of the greatest coaches ever, and the experience and the pain we felt this year with this loss just makes me want to play with him even more," Hinton added.
"He just treats us with so much love."
Senior Corey Davis said, "Without coach Sampson even having to tell us something, we know his character, we know what he is about.
"If anything was to change, he'd let us know. But we know what coach Sampson's mindset is. We're not really worried about that."
"He's the key to all success," David added. "The way he coaches, the way he loves us. The way he pushes us every day. As long as coach Sampson is here, they'll be pushing in the right direction. I know that for a fact."