Saturday's UH vs. Auburn game: Father/son coaching duos expected on the court

Adam Winkler Image
Saturday, March 18, 2023
UH vs. Auburn will feature rare father-son coaching duel on Saturday
It's the battle of the best father-son coaching duo! Kellen Sampson and Steven Pearl have both played for their fathers and now get to share the stage leading up to the Final Four.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (KTRK) -- More than 350 schools play NCAA Division I men's basketball. Only six feature a father/son coaching duo. Two of those six, and the only two in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, will square off Saturday.

University of Houston bench boss Kelvin Sampson's top assistant coach is his son Kellen. The Coogs' opponent, Auburn, is coached by Bruce Pearl. Steven Pearl, Bruce's son, is working on his Dad's staff in his ninth year.

"There's an awesome fraternity amongst coaches' kids that also decide to be coaches and decide to go this route," Kellen Sampson told ABC13 on Friday. "There are so many shared experiences that maybe only one or the other truly understands and can appreciate."

RELATED: From dreams of the courtroom to ruling the court: One-on-one with UH head coach Kelvin Sampson

"Kellen is an up-and-coming rising star in our profession," Steven Pearl admitted. "I have nothing but respect for him. I've used him to ask questions as far as his experiences."

Both sons, who are working with their fathers, also played for their dads.

"Steven was a lot better player than I was," Kellen pointed out. "My Dad was quick to say that I had zero upsides as a player, but I had a lot of upside as a coach - so he's been a lot harder on me as a coach."

SEE ALSO: Sampson family bond leaves its mark on UH men's basketball

"Playing for my Dad is much harder than working for my dad," Pearl revealed.

Another parallel between these two coaching kids is they've each seen their fathers penalized by the NCAA in past jobs, Bruce at Tennessee and Kelvin at Indiana.

"Our path to this point has been front-page news stories - good and bad," Kellen said. "It further strengthened our passion to do this because it got tested. We learned to have an awesome appreciation for our Dads. We knew they were husbands. They were dads much more so than they were a basketball coach. In those moments of adversity, we really learned to appreciate our dads."

"Both of us have done a really good job of learning from the mistakes of our dads and obviously learning from them as they're trying to build programs," Steven added. "What they've been through makes them great coaches."

Regardless of which team wins Saturday's game, the '23 NCAA Tournament will feature a father/son coaching duo in the Sweet 16.

RELATED: Marcus Sasser '100%' playing in Houston's 2nd round game vs. Auburn

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