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Kelvin Sampson to Speak at Montana Tech Commencement Ceremony


April 21, 2017

Montana Tech Commencement Speaker Kelvin SampsonKelvin Sampson, head men’s basketball coach for the University of Houston and former head men’s basketball coach for Montana Tech, will deliver the keynote address at Montana Tech’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 6, 2017.

Sampson has had a very successful basketball coaching career which started in the Mining City with the Orediggers in 1981. “We are excited to have Coach Sampson return to campus to address our over 530 graduates,” noted Montana Tech Chancellor Don Blackketter. “Sampson will deliver an inspiring and meaningful keynote that our graduates and community are sure to enjoy.”

At Montana Tech, Sampson is known for turning the program into a perennial winner during his tenure. Previously, Tech had only won 17 games in three years. Sampson coached three consecutive 22-win seasons and three Frontier Conference Championships before leaving for Washington State.

“It is fitting that Coach Sampson started his head coaching career at Montana Tech because he is all about work ethic, toughness, and perseverance – the traits that live in our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” noted Joe McClafferty, vice chancellor at Montana Tech and former student-athlete under Sampson. “Coach Sampson is an unbelievable leader and motivator. As his record shows, he has the ability to create teams that work together and achieve greatness. It will be great to have Coach back on campus.”   

A veteran of 13 NCAA Tournaments, former Houston Rockets assistant coach and longtime college veteran, Sampson joined the University of Houston Men's Basketball program as its head coach on April 3, 2014.

As a 27-year head coaching veteran at Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington State and Montana Tech, Sampson has compiled a 535-299 record during his career. He has led his teams to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, including 11 in 12 years with the Sooners from 1994 to 2006. During his Oklahoma tenure, he guided the Sooners to 10 consecutive 20-win seasons, the 1999 Sweet 16, the 2002 Final Four and an Elite Eight appearance in 2003.

In his career, he has led three different schools to NCAA Tournament appearances and been named a National Coach of the Year twice. Sampson has received four conference Coach of the Year awards from three different leagues and guided every program he has led to multiple 20-win seasons during his stints.

Sampson enjoyed tremendous success as the leader of Oklahoma Men's Basketball from 1994 to 2006. He led the Sooners to the postseason every year of his tenure with NCAA Tournament appearances during each of his first nine seasons. That run was highlighted by a trip to the NCAA Final Four in 2002 and an appearance in the Elite Eight one year later.

Oklahoma earned a share of the 2005 Big 12 Conference regular-season title, captured three consecutive Big 12 Tournament championships from 2001 to 2003 and posted at least 20 wins during each of his final 10 seasons.

He left Oklahoma to become Indiana's head coach in 2006 and guided the Hoosiers to the 2007 NCAA Tournament and a pair of 20-wins seasons before resigning late in the 2008 season. Sampson entered the NCAA Division I ranks as head coach at Washington State from 1987 to 1994. He compiled a 103-103 record and led the Cougars to postseason appearances in two of his final three seasons, including an NCAA Tournament berth in 1994. Leading the Cougars to the 1992 NIT, Sampson guided Washington State to its first postseason appearance since 1983.

Sampson began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1979-80 before moving to Montana Tech as an assistant coach in 1980. One year later, he became Montana Tech's head coach, leading the Orediggers to a 73-45 record, including three straight 22-win seasons during each of his final three years there.

He led Montana Tech to a pair of NAIA District 12 title games and was named the Frontier Conference Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1983, In the three years prior to his arrival, Montana Tech had won a combined 17 games.

Sampson also built an impressive resume at the international level. In the summer of 1995, he served as the head coach of the United States Junior National Team that competed during the Junior World Games in Athens, Greece. Leading a team of college freshmen and high schoolers, his squad posted a 4-4 record against the more experienced international competition. Sampson was selected as an assistant coach at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia during the summer of 1994. That team earned a bronze medal and competed against USA Basketball's Dream Team II following the games.

In 1993, Sampson was selected head coach of the West team at the U.S. Olympic Festival in San Antonio, Texas, and led his team to the silver medal.

Most recently, he served as an assistant coach for the 2012 Canadian National Team.

Sampson was born in Laurinburg, N.C., where he was an award-winning student-athlete at Pembroke High and later at UNC Pembroke. Playing for his father John W. "Ned" Sampson, he captained his high school basketball team for two years. He also competed as quarterback for the football team and catcher/outfielder for the baseball team.

Sampson earned a combined nine varsity letters and was an All-Three Rivers Conference selection in each of the three sports in 1973-74.

While at UNC Pembroke, Sampson focused on basketball and baseball. As a point guard, he led the Braves as team captain during his senior season and finished his collegiate career with four letters in basketball and three in baseball.

Off the court/field, he earned Dean's List recognition and was awarded the Gregory Lowe Memorial Award as the school's outstanding physical education major during his senior year. Sampson received bachelor's degrees in health and physical education and political science from UNC Pembroke in 1978. He earned his master's degree in coaching and administration at Michigan State in 1980 after serving during the 1979-80 season as a graduate assistant under Jud Heathcoate. He then moved to Montana Tech after being named assistant coach.

He was inducted into the Montana Tech Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the UNC Pembroke Athletic Hall of Fame in February 1998.

Sampson and his wife, Karen, have a daughter, Lauren, and a son, Kellen.

Montana Tech’s commencement ceremony will begin at 11:00 am on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at the Butte Civic Center. The community is invited to attend the ceremony to listen to Sampson and be a part of the 117th Montana Tech commencement ceremony.