MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Kelvin Sampson has traveled the country as a basketball coach for six universities and two NBA teams, but his roots are right here in the Carolinas.
“I’m a Pembroke, North Carolina boy,” Sampson said. “Born and raised, and proud of it.”
Some people say Sampson is from North Carolina or Robeson County, but he said his roots run deep and true to Pembroke and the Lumbee tribe.
“I didn’t realize I was Native American growing up because that’s all we saw,” Sampson said. “All my friends were Native American and then we started playing high school basketball, we started changing leagues, and then you realize there’s a world outside of Pembroke.”
When he did leave Pembroke, he chased his dream as a basketball coach, leading him to universities across the country. Michigan State University, Montana Tech, Washington State University, the University of Oklahoma and Indiana University were all stops on his journey. He even coached with two NBA teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets, before landing in his current position.
“I get asked a lot, ‘which place did you like the best?’ Well, I loved them all,” Sampson said. “In our profession, you judge the likability of a place based on your winning.”
Sampson now serves as the head basketball coach at the University of Houston where he has been for nine years. He is the first Native American coach to ever lead a team to a No. 1 NCAA ranking.
He said growing up in Pembroke taught him valuable lessons — lessons he now shares with his team at the University of Houston.
“I think when you come from a town like Pembroke, you have to have a chip on your shoulder, but don’t ever lose it,” Sampson said. “I have a sign outside of my team’s locker room downstairs in our player’s lounge here at [the] University of Houston, it says, never lose your chip. I was born with that chip, and I’ve never lost it.”
He said he has learned a lot through each city and each season of his life, and as the Cougars jump into this March Madness season, he shared some important advice.
“The road to success is wrought with failures,” Sampson said. “It’s wrought with a lot of steps that’s gonna knock you down, knock you back. But you need to have the ability to get up and move forward and not let other people define you.”
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Taylor Maresca is the weekend morning anchor and morning reporter at News13. She joined the team in June 2022 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Taylor is from Houston. Follow Taylor on Twitter and read more of her work here.