HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The University of Houston men's basketball team has advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in each NCAA Tournament played since 2019. For head coach Kelvin Sampson, it was a Sweet Sixth that helped him get into coaching.
"I wanted to be Thurgood Marshall," Sampson admitted to ABC13's Adam Winkler during a wide-ranging 1-on-1 interview. "I always saw myself as a voice for the oppressed. So I applied to law school, took the LSAT and got accepted."
Sampson was born in Laurinburg, North Carolina and played both basketball and baseball at UNC Pembroke. 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.
Sampson received bachelor's degrees in health and physical education and political science from UNC Pembroke in 1978.
"My senior year, I had no money - so Saturday mornings I could make $1.65/hour to coach. They needed coaches for these little kids in the league. I coached the sixth grade girls team and, my team won the championship. That was all she wrote. I'll, I'll check you later Thurgood."
After achieving his first taste of success, Sampson has coached for more than three decades in the college game. He is one of just 15 coaches in NCAA history to lead four or more schools to the NCAA Tournament.
This year, he's guided UH to the program's first number one seed since 1983. The Cougars open play in the NCAA Tournament Thursday.
Down time, especially during this time of the year, is rare. However, Sampson says he makes time for two of his biggest fans - sometimes even leaving practice 15 minutes early to visit with his grandchildren.
"As soon as I go through the gate and I drive up - Maisy knows my knock," Sampson said of his grandchildren Maisy and Kylen. "I don't tell her I'm coming, because I want to surprise her and Kylen. And then - it's on. We go Elsa and Anna and Ariel, and we're playing basketball, hide and seek Monster. We got all the games."
This week, Sampson and his Coogs embark on a tournament featuring 67 games - and culminating with the NCAA Men's Final Four in Houston.